A lot of people bristle at the word “tolerance.” Some bristle because it feels like they’re being forced to put up with the presence and behavior of individuals or groups with whom they disagree.
I like to remind those people that as much trouble as they’re having “tolerating” those who are different than them, there’s probably someone else having just as tough a time “tolerating” them.
The way I see it, the only options are to either completely segregate ourselves, or we’re going to have to deal with each other, and only one of those options is realistic.
It’s not so much an issue of “forcing” anyone to do anything so much as pointing out the basic reality that we all share our planet’s resources, whether we like it or not.
So we might as well at least try to live side by side for the betterment of us all.
Some people also bristle at the word “tolerance” because of the implication that “putting up with” someone is enough to make our world a better place.
I guess if you’ve ever been in a position where you felt like someone was barely putting up with you, you probably would agree that isn’t a very positive experience.
But we’ve got to start somewhere, right?
When I began the process of contributing to Unheralded, I created a Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Challenging-Conversation-Corners/1546639652267906?pnref=story) to accompany the Challenging Conversation Corners blog. I’ve been enjoying sharing little images with captions detailing questions on varying topics and participating in the discussions that result. One of our most recent discussions was about tolerance, and I think it’s pertinent to share here how some people chose to define the word as an important starting point:
“You can’t force acceptance, love, etc. Tolerance is the first step toward all that.”
“I think of tolerance as the bare minimum of societal acceptance for people unlike myself.”
The bare minimum. I can totally get behind that. Without tolerance, diversity is a pipe dream. But with it, it can be viewed through an open door — a door to a world where people can just be people without having to meet all these contingencies just to be “tolerated.”
The first step to cracking the seal of that door is by making the choice to “see color” (http://www.unheralded.fish/2015/03/19/natasha-thomas-challenging-conversation-corners-the-problem-with-colorblindness/) and acknowledge the existence of alternate realities.
Once you’ve done that, you can open it just a little farther by inserting yourself into a few conversations about things you may not otherwise be aware — be tolerant of the responses you’re given, whether you agree with them or not. We’ve all got our doors to open.
Then dig a little deeper, search for points of agreement and similarity in your respective realities. You may find more in common than you once thought.