I want to take a moment to write about the difference between tolerance and acceptance/endorsement. In the wake of the recent SCOTUS decision legalizing gay marriage nation-wide, I feel as though such a discussion would be quite appropriate. This post is neither for, nor against, gay marriage. My stance is, and will always be, that government should remove itself from the marriage business altogether. However, this post is not about my stance on marriage, but instead, a common-sense look at what tolerance means.
In modern society, there is much emphasis that is placed on the importance of tolerance. We are taught to tolerate those who anger us, tolerate those who disagree with us, tolerate those who come from different cultures and tolerate those who live lifestyles that conflict with our own. When it comes down to it, this mentality is absolutely correct. As a society, however, we run into issues when the definition of “tolerance” becomes ill-defined or misconstrued.
The biggest mistake that an individual can make is confusing tolerance with acceptance. Far too often, individuals are under the impression that, in order to tolerate, you must also accept. On the flip side, there are those who believe that, by choosing to tolerate, they are also displaying a personal endorsement. Neither of these scenarios is the case.
Tolerance, in its simplest form, is acknowledging differences, understanding that differences are inevitable and, finally, having the ability to discuss these differences in a civil manner. Tolerance does not mean conforming to an opposing viewpoint. Tolerance does not even mean endorsing an opposing viewpoint. Tolerance does, however, mean finding a general understanding and having a general respect for all human beings.
Am I “intolerant” because I disagree with the the actions of others? Absolutely not! Am I “intolerant” because I refuse to conform to and endorse lifestyles that conflict with my personal beliefs? Absolutely not! Am a conformist if I am willing to acknowledge personal differences and continue to treat those with whom I disagree with respect? Of course not!
Ultimately, we need to take a different look at what “tolerance” really means. Too often we allow the PC police to use tolerance as a means to force certain viewpoints upon the population. After all, who wants to be labeled as “intolerant”?
In conclusion, if society wishes to be truly “tolerant” we must accept the fact that human beings will have differences. We must not force others to see or accept our point of view. Finally, we must not let such differences prevent us from being civil individuals. The next time you hear someone preach “tolerance” ask yourself this question: “Is this true tolerance or is this an effort to force a certain viewpoint upon others?”
– The Objective Independent