Tolerance is defined as “the ability or willingness to tolerate something, in particular the existence of opinions or behavior that one does not necessarily agree with. Belief is not truth. It’s accepting that something may exist or be true without knowing for certain. It’s interesting how when we exclaim to be tolerant, we often overlook the part of the definition that’s most important – “the existence of opinions (beliefs) that one does not necessarily agree with.” When we won’t tolerate the beliefs of others because they differ from what we believe, we are not being tolerant, we are holding ignorance close to us to shield our beliefs.
Opinions seem to carry lesser weight than beliefs, however, consider the following statements: “It’s my opinion that 2+2=4.” and “I believe that 2+2=4.” The truth is that 2+2=4, and math neither cares about our opinions nor beliefs. It simply just “is.” So the next time we find ourselves in a situation where we tell someone we won’t tolerate their behavior or opinions because we disagree, consider how quickly we would “tolerate” them if they simply just happen to agree with our own beliefs and opinions? Do we really tolerate what we already align with?
How deep is our investigation into others that we feel we align with? What do we make up about others to justify our acceptance, and falsely fill in all the blanks we don’t know based on surface knowledge? “I don’t know this person…but, they are wearing a jersey of my favorite team, they are wearing the shirt of my favorite band, they attend the same place of worship that I do, they work in the same office that I do, their child goes to the same school as my child, they vote the way I do, they take their coffee the same way I do…therefore, they must be a decent human. Why would we tolerate that level of thinking when we are capable of compassionate inquiry? When we have the capacity to seek to understand what we don’t know for sure.