I’m a word guy. I like to dig down to their original meanings, references and applications within history. With the battle and ensuing confusion of clashing belief systems in politics, religion and general life choices, enter the ’T’ word — ‘Tolerance’.
I hear this word tossed around like a water balloon at a kids summer picnic. It is the fall back for many who — like most — want peace in our world. It drives a stake through the heart of debates when one’s ideas are being challenged. “You’re not being Tolerant!”
So I was curious.
Rightly, the word ‘Tolerance’ is defined as “the ability or willingness to tolerate something with an enduring attitude, in particular the existence of opinions or behaviors that one does not necessarily agree with.”
Sounds good. That’s what we all should be.
Then I asked the opposite, “If ‘Tolerance’ means to willingly respect (my edition) a religion/political ideology, for example, what does ‘Intolerance’ mean?”
This is where the confusion begins. ‘Intolerance’ is defined in many word lists as “unwillingness to accept views, beliefs, or behavior that differ from one’s own.” The phrase “to accept” means “believe or come to recognize (an opinion, explanation, etc.) as valid or correct.”
So if intolerance means I don’t accept an idea that’s different, that should mean that tolerance means that I accept it. Yet the historical definition of tolerance doesn’t say that — read the definition above.
Tolerance is NOT acceptance of an idea as correct. Tolerance does not mean — at its core — to accept.
When I tolerate people who follow Islam for example, I respect them. I love them. I engage them in conversation and we usually end up laughing together at the end. That’s being tolerant; being respectful and dare I say, being loving as Christ would — hopefully to have Jesus change their hearts to see his truth. Yet I don’t accept their core religious beliefs as true. That’s okay. They don’t accept mine either.
Many of my close friends differ politically and religiously. Others differ in life-style choices and beliefs. Yet, I continue to love them as they love me (I think). That’s Christ-like tolerance.
Definitions aside, the question for you is, “How do you view and/or treat people with different beliefs that yours?”
I believe that our time in this age is short — too short to let squabbles cut a gash in relationships. My suggestion is to get over differences and live like Christ to love and share His awesome message of hope found in knowing Him personally. You need it. I need it. Our world needs it, especially in the coming days.
“With all humility and gentleness, with patience, show tolerance for one another in love.”