Tolerance: A fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions, practices, race, religion, nationality, etc. differ from one’s own.
My recent comments about hot-weather-inspired nudity at our local Walmart prompted a brief discussion on FB about the variety of people in our world and the need for tolerance. My own tolerance for others is often challenged by the lack of morality in our current society.
Each day I watch people do things that I believe are wrong.
I hear them say things that I find simply disgusting.
I see them wearing things that I perceive as vulgar.
I know many are living a lifestyle that I believe is morally reprehensible.
And most of the time I mind my own business and try to take care of my own shortcomings.
Jesus admonishes us to hate the sin, not the sinner.
Do unto others…
There but for the grace of God…
Love first, and then speak of change…
However, the issue is a complicated one, even from a Christian point of view. Here’s a piece I wrote about it in 2007:
Reading, writing, and reality…
Childhood is seldom the fluffy marshmallow fantasy that adults would hope for their offspring. My own experiences included a lot of physical and emotional pain. We moved a lot and I had to leave friends behind. I worked in the fields on weekends and during the summers for ten years. My grandfather was an unpredictable alcoholic. My parents argued as much as most parents. My uncle was in prison. I was in several painful accidents. Two men tried to kidnap me on the way home from school. One year my classmate stole my birthday doll. There were weekly gang fights at many of the schools I attended. My friend’s baby brother died in his sleep. My first boyfriend decided he loved someone else. I could go on and on. I don’t remember ever having a perfectly perfect life.
However, I often feel that my life was a Disney movie compared to the experiences of some of today’s children.
I was talking to my daughter yesterday and to a colleague the day before, and we were trying to pinpoint the differences between the two. I have reached the conclusion that the major difference between my generation and the current one is color.
When I grew up everything was black or white, good or evil, yes or no. Bad things seemed more isolated. Bad people were insane or evil, but either way they would be punished. Even if things went horribly wrong, your mom said, “That’s not right” and you had hope that tomorrow everyone would come to their senses and it would be right again. And we were more isolated and insulated. We didn’t even have a television for years. I didn’t see the news or know what was going on in the next town, much less the next country. Only major disasters and events filtered down into my little world.
Today everything is gray. There are no clear cut lines between good and evil. Everything seems to be acceptable “under the circumstances” because that is the politically correct attitude to adopt these days. You don’t want to be rash and say that someone or something is wrong. Tolerance. That’s the good word. There is no preaching at the dinner table about the evils of the world. That would just be wrong and might hurt someone’s feelings.
And children aren’t isolated from anything. Children see and hear things that would have shocked my mother. They shock me! And they see them so often that they don’t give any thought to them at all. Nudity, rudeness, crudeness, anger, and violence are a part of daily life for many children. If they don’t see such things in their own environment they see and hear them on television, games, and music videos. Cursing is so casual that many of my kindergarten students have heard and can use a dozen swear words. You might be surprised to hear what some of my former students have intentionally told me I could do! Many play games I wouldn’t let a teenager play. They watch movies I wouldn’t want to see! Add to that the fact that they see and hear the news about every evil, violent thing that happens in the world and it all becomes too much. They just accept and go on. And if that is the way they start childhood, you can imagine how they finish it.
I hope you weren’t waiting for a solution, because I don’t have one. I know we can’t go back. I know that communication is a good thing and that acceptance of others is also good. But it worries me when a kindergarten student tells me in casual conversation “we played Call to Duty last night”, or tells me all about the latest teen music idol. It all seems too much too soon.
The Easy Path
Each day the morning news, our online homepage, even a trip to town, is a reminder of the factions and fractures that exist in our society. We are on this earth together, we are human beings created in God’s image, and yet….we group and re-group ourselves into subsets and interest groups and alliances that bicker and squabble and confront each other until we are faced with fanaticism and violence in the pursuit and practice of our beliefs. I have always found the Bible’s teachings on the values and actions of others to be challenging, controversial, and at times even confusing.
Judge not. Well, then how do I recognize with whom I should fellowship if I am not to some degree judging others? “The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.” Luke 6:45 So each time I listen to a fellow human being I am subconsciously judging and categorizing him/her.
Turn the other cheek. We are to stand up for our beliefs and declare the gospel to others. “I proclaim righteousness in the great assembly; I do not seal my lips, as you know, O Lord. I do not hide your righteousness in my heart; I speak of your faithfulness and salvation. I do not conceal your love and your truth from the great assembly.” Psalms 40:9-10 How do we remain strong enough to do that if we are taking abuse at the same time?
Love your neighbor. However, if my neighbor is evil I’d better love them from a distance.“But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother, but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat.” I Corinthians 5:11 Again, that nagging realization that in order to label a person I must in some measure judge their actions!
Forgive others. Many people these days proclaim that the Bible teaches tolerance, but it seems to me to teach the opposite- you can’t forgive someone unless you recognize that they need forgiveness, and that, again, implies judging their actions to be sinful. “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32 God forgives me when I do wrong, so I assume that is what He wants me to forgive of others.
Being a Christian has never been easy, even in much simpler times. But now that we have such easy access to the news of everyone, everywhere it is even more challenging. Now that any and all groups in society feel the need to express their views loudly and proudly we are continually bombarded by moral decisions that must be made in order to live our daily lives. It is one thing to confront an “issue” and quite another to confront a neighbor or co-worker. “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ do that.” Luke 6:32-33 “But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back.” Luke 6:35 Wait a minute…what happened to not even eating with them?
God warned us that this is not an easy path to follow. “But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” Matthew 6:14 I am thankful for His wisdom and daily guidance because I certainly would wander off the path on my own… and probably just sit down to wait to be rescued! But God takes my hand and leads me along, even when he has to pull really hard or even give me a little jerk. I had no intention of writing this today, nor did I choose my Bible reading this morning. Totally led by God. Somewhere in my ramblings there must be something someone needs to hear. And of course thinking and writing are always a lesson and blessing to my own feeble brain. I will think long and hard today about the difference between judge- “to form an opinion through careful weighing of evidence and testing of premise” and judge- “to govern or rule.”
Today I will tell you that I’m just about as tolerant as I can tolerate!
- 1. the capacity to endure pain or hardship
- 2. a: sympathy or indulgence for beliefs or practices differing from or conflicting with one’s own
b: the act of allowing something
- 3. a: the capacity of the body to endure or become less responsive to a substance (as a drug) or a physiological insult, especially with repeated use or exposure