Tolerance begins with respect

Webster’s Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary’s definition of “tolerance” is as follows: “sympathy or indulgence for beliefs or practices differing from or conflicting with one’s own.”

In the same Webster’s dictionary, the definition of “intolerance” is as follows: “unwilling to grant equal freedom of expression, especially in religious matters or other social, political, or professional rights.”

Today our lives are inundated by intolerance exhibited by the bombardment from social media, television, politics, and at times, family and friends. In these areas, we bear witness to and experience people’s voices silenced, harassed, etc. just because they have opposing views and beliefs. Sometimes, the intolerance escalates and turns into acts of violence against individuals and property, causing loss of life or injury and damage or destruction to property.

Why have some in our society spiraled down this deep, endless rabbit hole of intolerance of groups or individuals whose views runs counter to theirs? Maybe it is the constant overexposure to this action, where slowly it becomes embedded subconsciously into the psyche of an individual. Through this transformation, they become desensitized and slowly accept this as their new normal.

On the other hand, tolerance of others’ opinions and views runs counter to intolerance. Tolerance accepts the other persons’ or groups’ views, but may not agree with them. You see, one of the hinges of tolerance is respect for another person. They revert to civil discussion where point-counterpoint is without the demeaning, derogatory comments. Like my friend Randy stated, “We agree to disagree.”

Another example of tolerance is the Martin Luther King’s civil rights march on Washington, D.C. where tens of thousands peacefully marched. They brought with them love and peace rather than violence and intolerance. They personified tolerance in the face of intolerance and injustice. With their peaceful, respectful approach, they forever positively changed the nation. It reverberates to this day.

I have entertained my friends at campfires in my backyard (some with various political/policy views), and when we enter into discussion on these topics, it never results in the lack of respect for one another nor loss of friendship. You see, the bonds of our friendship are so much stronger than the politics or policies that we support.

So, here are a few ideas to keep civil discourse.

1. Realization — Realize that only you can effectively change yourself with His help.

2. Care — Be careful to keep in mind the negative intolerance to which you are constantly being exposed.

3. Satan — He is always behind this intolerance, and loves to fan the flames of hate, uncivil discourse, and intolerance.

4. Pray — Pray for yourself, but also for those who struggle with intolerance.

God always gives us choices in our lives. How we respond to them is up to us. The choice is tolerance, love, and respect or intolerance, hate, and disrespect. Which one will you choose? Which one would He choose?

Daniel J. Paul is a retired school administrator. His articles focus on education, old-fashioned family values, relationships, and other topics. Visit his website at meaningfuldifferences.net.

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