I have never been a fan of the word “tolerance”. Ironically, I suppose you can say I’m not very tolerant of “tolerance”.
For me, the word “tolerance” holds people and ideas at a distance. It assumes I am right, and you are wrong. If I tolerate something, I don’t fully engage with it. I judge it. It makes me uncomfortable, so rather than choosing to understand it, I choose to tolerate it – from a distance. I find the word passive. And if I am tolerant, I’m not expected to take responsibility for solving the problem.
What if we replace “tolerance “with “acceptance”? It may not be the best counter, but for now, it’s the closest I’ve come to a word that holds me accountable. Acceptance doesn’t mean I have to agree with you, however, it does infer I am held accountable to understanding and to not judging. This means I create the space for ideas to percolate…for people to talk…for us to be uncomfortable and find respect in disagreement. And in this civil discourse (Remember that?) maybe we can solve some of our stickiest problems – together.
In a recent television interview, Hari Kondabolu (comic, film maker, and actor) challenges us to be aware of our own biases. He tells us that once we’re made aware, we can’t take awareness away. Maybe acceptance is becoming aware and owning new insights.
I don’t know…I’ll keep thinking about it. I do know that empathy, compassion, respect, and love are all part of acceptance. Maybe there isn’t just one word.
A whole new vocabulary? Any ideas?
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