What does “tolerance” mean to you?
I know the word is not new to you as people frequently use it. What I don’t know is how much of its real meaning you have understood and applied in your own sphere of influence.
You may probably have been tempted to think that tolerance strictly means to put up with something or someone with very nasty, horrible, terrible or poignant attributes. Not really!
Please take a good look at the definition below and compare it with what you already know about the meaning of the word:
“Willingness to accept behaviour and beliefs which are different from your own.”
I don’t know about you, but the definition above opened up an entirely new vista to me, of which I am glad.
It shows for instance that tolerance doesn’t say we should put up with evil or bad things or bad people. But it clearly portrays “willingness to accept behaviour and beliefs which are different from [our] own.”
Now let’s take a closer look at the key aspects of the said definition:
• Willingness to accept…
• Behaviour and beliefs…
• Different from your own…
Tolerance would be required wherever there are inter-human relationships because you will always meet people whose behaviour and beliefs are different from yours.
That’s why tolerance may also be understood as “the ability or willingness to tolerate the existence or opinions or behaviour that one dislikes or disagrees with.”
That means you can disagree with someone without going to war with him or her.
It means you should have an open mind towards someone even when he or she has an opinion that is completely different from yours.
Due to a number of varied factors such as genetic make-up, family background, religion, education, geography, exposure, life experiences etc, all of us believe different things and behave differently from one another.
That means that at any point in time in your chequered life, you will always see people who behave or believe differently from you; whose opinions about issues are not like yours.
The question would then be, “how would you deal with such people?”
In order to coexist harmoniously with such people, you should be willing to tolerate them if you cannot change them.
Talking about changing people, experience has shown that many people are aware that some other people do not share their opinions, behaviour or beliefs.
But some times, they are unwilling to accept such other people who do not share their outlook. This is often the beginning of unnecessary conflicts in human interactions.
However, you may only try to effect some changes on peoples’ behaviour or beliefs if possible to suite yours; but you shouldn’t try to use force.
By the way, you can’t change anyone who doesn’t really want to be changed. You can only influence such person.
When it comes to changing someone’s behaviour or beliefs, influence should be the operating word, not force.
Otherwise, you must bring to bare the willingness to accept their behaviour and beliefs which you perceive to be different from your own and which you cannot change.
That, my friend, is the real meaning of tolerance.
Bear in mind that tolerance is a seed; as you sow it, you will reap the sweet harvest.
Don’t you realise that other people would have to tolerate you too?
I believe you know that not all your opinions, behaviour and beliefs are acceptable to everyone you come in contact with!
Although, I cannot guarantee it, other people too ought to be willing to accept your opinions, behaviour and beliefs which are different from their own. That is if they know what it means to practice tolerance.
There is no worthwhile relationships with people that do notnot requ tolerance in between.
Like all good habits, tolerance doesn’t just happen to us; it has to be cultivated deliberately and ‘open-heartedly’.
It is very important to cultivate it because you will need it if you desire to build a meaningful, harmonious and long-lasting relationship of any kind.
Here are a few areas where we can apply the principle of tolerance:
• At home, between spouses , amongst siblings or other family members;
• At work, between you and your boss, colleagues or direct reports;
• In your neighbourhood, amongst co-tenants, etc
• Amongst your friends, classmates in schools etc
• In churches, with members and leaders alike;
• In other organisations /relationships, etc
In fact, anywhere you come in contact with humans, tolerance is needed. As you well know, no body is perfect.
People are different. You are not everyone and everyone is not you. Therefore, there will always be differences in opinion, behaviour and beliefs between you and others.
There would be conflicts all the time in all kinds of human relationships if the principle of tolerance is not imbibed.
The extent to which you realise this differences and how well you are willing to accept and manage them depict your level of tolerance at any given period.
What does tolerance mean to you? Let’s hear from you in the comment section.
Previously published on this blog in 2015 as “What tolerance really means.”