Acceptance and tolerance are sometimes harder than they would seem on the surface. Many of us who are liberals talk about acceptance of diversity, and I think that on many levels we’re doing really well. But I’m talking about something a bit closer to home – accepting the ways your friends and loved ones differ from you.
Having many different types of friends does make life more interesting. A vibrant, diverse community is a blessing. At the same time, though, doesn’t it sometimes leave you scratching your head, wondering “what were they thinking?”
The thing is, everyone is different. Even your best friend, who agrees with you on most topics and really understands you, will sometimes do something that leaves you sitting there mystified. That’s because each person is unique, and each of us has different priorities. When people make their decisions, they’re coming from their own point of view. A determining factor that you would consider obvious may not even occur to them.
When someone from another culture or generation makes a choice that you don’t understand, it’s easier to chalk it up to having a different upbringing. When it’s a peer, though, you might have a harder time accepting that their decision works for them. Or even if it doesn’t ultimately work out, it’s their learning experience.
Practicing acceptance begins at home. When a situation comes up where my partner does something I wasn’t expecting, or doesn’t do something that I thought was self-evident, I have to stop and regroup. My expectations of someone else, even a close loved one, are purely my own business. Unless you’ve specifically made an agreement with someone, it’s not fair to make assumptions. And even if you have, there’s always room for change and renegotiation. If I’m going to consider myself a tolerant person, then I need to let it start with those I love most.
And indeed, perhaps it should even start with having tolerance for myself.