To be or not to be – really is a question posed by today’s concept of tolerance. In this age of political correctness and an all-embracing of anything and everything as equally good, proper and correct; defining tolerance is a must. Webster’s Dictionary defines tolerance as the ability to recognize and respect others beliefs even when we don’t share them. To be tolerant does not mean accepting anything and everything as having equal worth and value but treating those with whom we disagree with at least a modicum of respect.
Contrary to popular belief, disagreeing is not intolerant. Holding a different viewpoint, even strongly, is not insensitive. How I express my differences of opinion or viewpoint may qualify me as insensitive but a strongly held idea does not. Some ideas are better than others. That’s not judgmental, that’s the truth. Some governments benefit their citizen’s better. That’s not presumptuous or being a super patriot but a fact. Religions differ, some dramatically, in their concept of God, good and evil, and the path needed taken to find salvation and eternal life. Some believe we are all on a different path to the same God, while others believe there is only one way. If somebody is right here it stands to reason then that somebody else is wrong, maybe eternally so.
There are differing opinions about the who, where, how and why of sex, between pro-choice and pro-lifers and between evolution, creation science and intelligent design; to name just a few. But there is nothing inherently wrong with having differences of opinion nor in vigorously expressing them. Truly civilized people however, must express themselves in an intelligent and genuinely tolerant manner. That doesn’t mean we will automatically be swayed by someone else’s argument. It does mean we can listen respectfully and allow for that difference, recognizing the potential worth of others while not agreeing with them. In other words, disagreeing agreeably. An issue of paramount importance today with all the acrimony and coarseness that pervades our society today.
The problem comes when we believe so strongly in an idea or concept that we cannot or will not be convinced by an opposing idea and see it as absolutely wrong. And sometimes that’s true! Some things are just the right things to be or do and some are not. The key is in allowing others to come to their own understanding of a question or point we are making. (This certainly doesn’t apply to aggressive behavior or violence, which must be responded to immediately. Having made provision for such with a military and police force, the individual can and should allow for these means to respond most of the time.)
Intolerance is laying blame for situations our opponents have no real control over or input in. Intolerance is not having a viable response to a belief or statement and resorting to untruths or name-calling to cover our own lack of depth and understanding. Intolerance is trying to force people to believe or act in a way they can’t or won’t. Intolerance is trying to make all ideas, beliefs, cultures, societies and religions essentially the same. A cornerstone of our society is the concept of a free exchange of ideas. Good and bad. Right and wrong. That’s the only way a consensus can be built and the best way to recognize good, bad, better and best; which helps us define who we are and what we stand for.
Imposition of will is a must at times. There is a right and wrong way to do things. But even that realization is derived at by the counsel of many and the consideration of varying viewpoints. But enforcing the absolute tolerance of today’s idea and thought police goes against the very concept of tolerance. When they accuse others of being intolerant, insensitive, or just plain wrong – are they not expressing intolerance of them and their ideas? While a real problem with today’s attempt at unquestioning tolerance of all ideas is that it allows or masks the fact that many today hold no ideas or beliefs strongly at all; believing it’s too hard to look at all the evidence and conflicting ideas and come to a conclusion that’s reasonable and practical. That’s not tolerance – that’s just lazy.
So how should we practice tolerance? Very carefully. We can’t merely accept evil, stupidity, the mundane or ordinary when we can be extra-ordinary; if we will only take the time to figure it out and strive for the best. We mustn’t be intolerant of people, but discerning about ideas and their applicability; as well as being aware of the resultant behavior and consequences of these ideas. And we must always remember that no one organization or group of people has cornered the market on tolerant or intolerant behavior. We all have our moments, most of which could be resolved if we follow Paul’s admonition to indeed, “Be on your guard, stand firm in the faith; be men (and women) of courage; be strong. (But) Do everything in love”. 1 Corinthians 16:14.
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