Silly Words Series: #3 Tolerance

What it supposedly means:

            Everyone should be accepting of all ways of living and no one (especially Christians) should ever say anything bad about anything.

Why it’s silly:

Alright, first off, I’d like to say that there is nothing I dislike more than people who are of another faith (or lack thereof) and somehow feel that it is okay to demean another person’s religion. It is absolutely the rudest most uncivilized thing you can do to a person. To tell someone that you don’t share their faith and that that somehow gives you the right to belittle and harass them is unconscionable.

Now, the word “tolerance.” We see this word all the time. We’re constantly told that we should practice tolerance, as if doing this simple little thing will solve all of the world’s problems. Seriously, that’s how it’s sold. The problem in this case is that tolerance is the wrong word.

I don’t just want to tolerate people. If I’m tolerating someone, I’m only just bearing their presence. I tolerate the guy in front of me at the grocery store who hasn’t bathed in three weeks. I tolerate the obnoxious, whiney kid on the plane that has kept everyone up for the last five hours. I tolerate the couple in the roller coaster line who can’t stop making out. I never want to use the word ‘tolerance’ to describe my feelings for a person who simply holds a different view.

You may ask me, “If not ‘tolerance,’ then what?”

How about respect?

Let’s make the effort to not just tolerate someone with a different view. Let’s respect them. Because, when you respect someone, you are letting them know that, although you may not agree with him or her, that person still has value to you. Respecting people can go a long way toward beginning a real conversation.

Understand, just because you respect someone, that doesn’t mean that you have to agree with everything (or anything) that they say. I’m a Christian, so I’m used to being told that I should practice tolerance. When people tell me this, they mean “Don’t tell me that what I am doing is wrong. I don’t want to hear your opinion.” Fine. Then don’t listen, because like it or not, I have opinions (a lot actually) and I will express them. Respectfully.

And that’s okay. I may not agree with, and I may not even like you, but I will always do my best to respect you. Trust me, that can get really hard when I’m constantly being called a racist, intolerant, bigot.* Then comes a big part of respect: forgiveness.

So, what do you think? Is respect a better word? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

P.S. One more thing about respecting people: Don’t call them names!


10 thoughts on “Silly Words Series: #3 Tolerance

  1. We don’t share the same faith. That said you’re still awesome. Special, smart and a spiritually balanced person. How is that for belittling? Wait I fail at belittling /shrug. It wasn’t anything I want to be good at anyway.

    Respect is a great word.

    We must therefore tolerate some behaviors that are harmful and beliefs that are intrinsically against our own beliefs. But we do need to respect the person and tolerate the views we know are destructive. It is diametrically opposing to say I respect and tolerate a person or a religion or a lifestyle. Many things are tolerated because we know they are destructive by nature. My family respects me and the trials I’ve been through. Those trials have lead to a dark place where I cut just to feel because pain is all that’s real. They tolerate this behavior.

    So even in your example you respect the person in line ahead of you but you tolerate the bad hygiene a behavior which is destructive.

    Great post hats off I couldn’t say it better myself. Though in time you may discover there are human beings you don’t respect and may not even be able to tolerate. Though I do respect each person enough to judge them as respectable or not based upon their words, deeds and actions. If I find them not worthy of my respect? CYA I don’t need that in my life.

    Great post


    • Thank you. I agree that perhaps not every person is deserving of respect. My point was that we shouldn’t just disrespect someone just based on religion (or other creed). For instance, I definitely do not respect people who kill others because their “faith” tells them to.

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

  2. Aussa Lorens says:

    I definitely prefer “respect” to “tolerance.” <— I'm a bit worn out from that word. It feels like a punchline now.

  3. Great post! This is a really interesting perspective. I def think respect is the ideal, but honestly sometimes peoples’ views are so extremely different (and you know how mature some folks can be). So I think tolerance is still necessary. (i.e. someone may hate furs or the idea of humans eating meat. that’s their right. they don’t have to respect something that they hate. but they could at least “tolerate” it aka not throw red paint on someone because they disagree with their choice).
    So yes, maybe it’s an overused word and as you stated maybe it is “less than” respect. In some cases it may be a stepping stone to respect. But either way I’d take tolerance over bigotry (of any kind) any day.

  4. […] more thoughts on tolerance, click here for one of my Silly Word Series […]

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