“Tolerance isn't about not having beliefs. It's about how your beliefs lead you to treat people who disagree with you.” ~ Timothy Keller
Thursday, November 16 is National Tolerance Day. On the National Days Calendar sites I found tolerance described in these ways: Being tolerant is about being respectful and accepting of other people's differences. Tolerance recognizes the universal human rights and fundamental freedom of others. This gives me pause to ask myself, “How tolerant am I really?” It’s easy to say that “of course I am tolerant.” But the reality is a lot more specific and requires me not to just say I’m tolerant, or just to avoid being blatantly intolerant, but to show that I’m tolerant. How do I do that?
"Tolerance is giving to every other human being every right that you claim for yourself." ~ Robert Green Ingersoll
Well, that helps. They say that “tolerance is an opportunity to promote respect, understanding, and cooperation among different cultures, religions, and beliefs around the world. It's a great time for us all to come together with open minds and hearts!” If each individual has the power to end intolerance, I can explore not allowing bigotry, insults, and racial jokes. But it’s hard to stand up to other people’s intolerance. That requires guts! Or to notice when someone is putting down others who may be different so that they can be right, or fell better.
“In order to have faith in his own path, he does not need to prove that someone else's path is wrong.” ~ Paulo Coelho
Wait. Do I do that? Oh I hope not! But maybe sometimes I do… yuck... I can see it in others and know it to be wrong, but I need to pay attention to myself, too, to catch myself if I ever fall into that temptation, so I can stop myself, or at the very least apologize.
I wonder if I could do more to identify intolerance in my own life? If I ask myself thought-provoking questions to figure out whether I am being intolerant, maybe I can avoid accidentally falling into intolerant behaviors or words. Some specific questions might be: “How tolerant am I of other people, cultures, and societies?” “Do I stereotype people or reject those who are different than me? (even if I don’t say anything out loud?)” I could identify scenarios where I was being intolerant – think hard and be honest! – and then ask myself, “How could I respond differently?” How do I treat others when I disagree with them? One thing I can work on is seeing with new eyes the people who I deem “different,” – to try to see them with the eyes of God’s love.
As Confucius says, “Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.” Well, I can certainly try.
And how about having conversations with folks around me - friends and family - about why intolerance is so dangerous? We see the nasty results around us all the time, with the arguing, the violence, and disrespect, and ridiculing or shutting out people who are different (culturally, racially, …) – wars, oppression, prejudice – you name it! Tough conversations, and so much bigger than just me, but it does all start with closed minds and hearts and learned behaviors that people may not even know why they do. It starts with the way I treat people, which I can pay attention to, especially if I disagree with their point of view. It changes when I work intentionally to change the ways I respond to people who hold different viewpoints, to treat them with respect and dignity, trying to understand their perspective.
Loving God, help me to recognize when I am being intolerant of others who may be different from me – without even knowing them.
Teach me to see them through your eyes of love and treat them accordingly.
Jesus, help me to do as you showed us and stand up to those who treat people with intolerance.
Give me courage and the words to talk with folks I know, about tough topics like the dangers of intolerance, maybe even brainstorming how we can help one another to find more respectful ways to respond to those with whom we may disagree, or find uncomfortably different from ourselves.
Be with us, loving God. ~ Amen