We live in a complicated world. Nobody and nothing are completely alike. It’s no surprise that when race, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, religion and belief meet, something more along the lines of a cosmic collision occurs instead of the harmony we originally imagined. That’s why, in this day and age, tolerance is more important than ever. So how do we, as women of the 21st century, take a stand on this issue? What is our course of action?
Most importantly, what exactly is tolerance?
First, let’s begin with what tolerance is not. Contrary to popular belief, tolerance does not demand one’s approval of everything and it is not the mentality that “everything goes.” It is not being selective in what can or cannot exist, nor does it discriminate those of a singular mindset.
According to the New Oxford American Dictionary, “[True] tolerance allows the existence, occurrence, or practice of something that one does not necessarily like or agree with, without interference.” To tolerate is to permit, swallow and take. It is also, as the NOAD specifies, “The capacity to endure continued subjugation to something … without adverse reaction.” Therefore, tolerance is by no means an easy act or manner of thought. Honest and earnest toleration of different world views requires a great deal of grace and integrity. Grace conveys a genuineness of heart while integrity reminds a woman to hold fast to her own ideals.
Honest and earnest toleration of different world views requires a great deal of grace and integrity.
Because the melting pot in which we live offers so many opinions, it is vital that we determine for ourselves that which is right and wrong. Doing so requires that we seek answers objectively, purely based on logic and reason, and refrain from pursuing them subjectively, through our emotions and predispositions. However, as hard as we try, for every person with a certain view there will always be ten more with an opposite one. That is where tolerance comes in.
Our challenge is to permit the presence of opposition with courtesy and kindness, all the while standing resolute in our own beliefs, resisting compromise. To thrive in this world, we must strive for a level head, for the ability to recognize objective truth and for the courage to follow it. Then, and only then, will we be truly tolerable.
How can we grow in being a more tolerant culture and society? Is it possible to have strong convictions without being arrogant, harsh or demanding toward others?
Image via Megan Robinson