Tolerance or Acceptance? Part II

There is a conceptual grand canyon between Acceptance and Tolerance as we discussed last time, and it has huge implications for international and intercultural communication and dealing. When two people of different lifestyles or ideological bases meet, they have a choice: to accept the other person, to tolerate him, or to not tolerate him. Obviously, the latter choice doesn’t usually end well, but the former two choices have just as important implications that might not be so obvious. Is tolerance better, or is it just non-tolerance for the patient and opportunist? We are taught acceptance in school, but we should really be taught loving tolerance.

The Struggle:  Being tolerant, according to its definition as it relates to acceptance, is to be nonjudgemental. The Bible tells us in Matthew 7:1, “Do not judge or you too will be judged” (NIV). Society, especially Christians, needs to demonstrate love, and it can be done without being judgmental or putting conditions on that love. People have told me in response to Part 1 that inherent in tolerance, is a certain unhealthy dishonesty that a person has to exude in order to manage some sort of facade when interacting with people who differ in ideological bases with them.  I’ve been told it is bad, straight up and outright. So, when can tolerance go bad? It has a very fine line.

Using Tolerance Wisely

When we mistake tolerance for political correctness in an effort to be accepting, we run the risk of becoming dishonest. Showing love means being honest, and there are ways to be tolerant of another’s viewpoints while holding onto your own beliefs and values. We can be honest if we disagree with a person by being respectful in explaining our views. Yet, today that honesty is often perceived to be politically incorrect. We live in a society that says it is for free speech, but does not always like it when we exert that right. People might single you out or look at you funny. Even the most carefully chosen words can elicit a harsh response. Yet, true tolerance allows us to listen to what the other person is saying. When we listen, we can become educated and have great discussions that bridge divides rather than grow rifts. Still, it is easy to be tolerant of another person when the differences between you are minor. It is a whole other level when the differences are large, and the span of those differences are often subject to an individual’s beliefs.

The Dangerous Tolerance Line

When does tolerance become dangerous? We face some difficult situations, and our views of tolerance can become challenging. For instance, what happens when you’re around a group of friends who are gossiping? Do you stand by, because you know they don’t share your faith and values if you’re Christian? Or do you speak up for what you believe in the hopes that they won’t do it around you anymore? There is such a great need for acceptance nowadays, that it becomes easier to sometimes tolerate the behavior than put our faith out, front and center. Sure, the Bible tells us not to judge, but that doesn’t mean we sit back and let things happen. There are times when you need to make a judgement call, or that you have to judge the situation, not the person. As Christians, we know that God is the only one to judge us, so we need to live by His guidance. 1 Corinthians 2:15 states, “The spiritual man makes judgements about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man’s judgement” (NIV).

While it is dangerous for Christians to become overly tolerant, it is also a problem when we are not tolerant enough. Christians have been criticized over the years for their lack of tolerance, which has come from some Christians being overly harsh and judgmental sometimes leading to violence. Historically, the Crusades and Inquisition were examples of religious intolerance and today we see bombings of abortion clinics as such also. When intolerance turns to hate, that is when people become more dangerous. We are not called to hate people. We do not have to like what they do, and we can even speak out about it, but hate is a powerful and dangerous emotion. We must be careful not to allow ourselves to become so intolerant that we then become blinded by an emotion. It is important, then, that we learn to speak the truth from a place of love. We can have discussions with people that are respectful, even if we don’t share the same viewpoints. None of us should have to compromise our beliefs to be “politically correct” or for the sake of acceptance, but we should be tolerant of one another enough to listen, educate, and love one another despite our differences.

People demand freedom of speech to make up for the freedom of thought which they avoid.   – Soren Kierkegaard

There is no prejudice so strong as that which arises from a fancied exemption from all prejudice.   – William Hazlitt


About authorspeaks

I am a 29 year old Coptic-American living in Los Angeles.
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