The Problem with Tolerance

“Tolerance” is a buzzword in politics and social conversations today. I have a problem with tolerance. Actually, my problem isn’t with tolerance itself, but with what society seems to think tolerance is.

Many people think of some sort of agree-with-everybody mentality when it comes to tolerance. The problem is, that is actually the exact opposite of what it truly means.


True tolerance is:

“the ability or willingness to tolerate something, in particular the existence of opinions or behavior that one does not necessarily agree with.”

So, you see, agreeing with everyone is actually the exact opposite of tolerance. If you agree with everybody, it’s impossible to be tolerant, because instead of tolerating their views, you’re just agreeing with them.

It’s simple, really.

If you are Jewish and you desire to be tolerant towards a Buddhist person, you would not be agreeing with them. You wouldn’t be changing your views or converting to theirs. Instead, you would be holding your own beliefs but accepting that someone else has different beliefs, and that you don’t have to hate them for it.

Of course, it goes both ways.

Same thing with any social issue. If you feel one way about gun control or abortion or international trade or whatever, you don’t have to change your mind in order to be tolerant. Instead, express yourself respectfully. Make your point known in a way that doesn’t paint the opposition as less-than. Strengthen your argument instead of bashing who your critic is as a person.

The problem with tolerance is that we don’t practice tolerance; we often practice either blind acceptance or hateful stubbornness.

Can you imagine a world where a person voiced their thoughts, respected those who disagreed, and actually worked towards a real solution? That is tolerance. And that’s the world I want to live in.


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