What does it mean to tolerate something? What do we mean when we say that tolerance is something to strive for? People are fond of saying that they have no tolerance for intolerance. But according to the definition of the word, they therefore are intolerant, regardless of the targeted nature of their intolerance.

I started thinking about this today because I got into a “discussion” on FB (bad idea, I know) with a chick from my high school, on the wall of a guy from high school, and she took it over to Messenger to berate me, scream at me about my “incredible stupidity”, told me to stop talking to her, and then messaged me again…honestly, the entire exchange made me laugh.

All this started because the guy whose wall we were on posted a meme to the effect that he didn’t want the government telling him to take the vaccine. She immediately segued that into an abortion comment. In response, I asked her a couple of questions.

Given: abortion is legal. Therefore, why does somebody who murders a pregnant woman get charged with two counts of murder? And two, why do we have fetal abuse laws? In all three cases, abortion, murder, fetal abuse, we have the same outcome…a dead baby. So, why do we care if a woman shoots heroin while pregnant?

(FYI, this is an exercise that I used to use in class…always resulted in lively discussions.)

That set her off. And, for the entirety of her ranting, she never answered my questions. She did sorta swing back around to the original question/comment of vaccine mandates, but she still took that in an entirely different direction. The guy whose wall it was also messaged me (he and I are FB friends; she and I are not), and said good luck with her, she has no tolerance for disagreement with her opinions. But, I’m betting that if you could get her to stay rational for five minutes, and asked her, she’d tell you she’s one of the most tolerant, loving, and kind person on the face of the earth. And then rip your head off if you disagreed with her. Because she’s that tolerant and you obviously need to learn tolerance.

So, I was wondering…why is it that some of the most intolerant people you run into are screaming at everybody else to be more tolerant?

Looking up tolerance in gives us these definitions:

  • a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions, beliefs, practice, racial or ethnic origins, etc., differ from one’s own; freedom from bigotry.
  • a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward opinions, beliefs, and practices that differ from one’s own.
  • interest in and concern for ideas, opinions, practices, etc., foreign to one’s own; a liberal, undogmatic viewpoint.
  • the act or capacity of enduring; endurance: My tolerance of noise is limited.

I think these are generally what people would come up with if you asked them. But, notice anything here? Not a single one of these definitions include anything that would suggest that tolerance must include taking other’s views as your own. Nor do the definitions say anywhere that you must accept differing opinions, etc. In fact, the last definition really gets to the heart of the matter: act or capacity of enduring; endurance. In other words, you just deal with it. You don’t celebrate it, you don’t promote it, you don’t change your own life or opinion…you just endure it. If you tolerate something, you simply put up with it.

But the left, as it has in so many other instances, insists that tolerance means acceptance of other opinions, beliefs, practices, etc. The left insists that “true tolerance” goes well beyond endurance and moves into joyful acceptance. And this is what set my high school acquaintance off. We were not accepting her opinion as our own. We did not agree with her conclusions. Therefore we were the intolerant and evil ones.

No. That is not what tolerance and tolerate mean.

Tolerating something means you recognize the opinion, belief, practice, etc. as valid, but you are not required to like it, accept it, or embrace it. You do need to put up with it…endure it. But you do not have to make that opinion, belief, practice yours.

Yes, tolerance is something society must strive for. In order for society to function relatively smoothly, we all need to tolerate opinions, beliefs, practices, and people with which and whom we disagree and/or dislike. But that does not mean that we have to accept any of that.

The best example I have seen of this so far is from my time teaching in Serbia. I worked with two people, both of whom I liked, but who, I found out later, couldn’t stand each other. I was shocked when I learned this. One of them told me that while they really didn’t like each other they did work well together and were very effective in what they were trying to do and for the projects they were working on. So, they tolerated each other. And got a lot done. And at the end of the day, went their separate ways (presumably home to respective spouses to bitch about having to spend the entire day with that damn idiot).

That is true tolerance. People with different backgrounds, goals, views, etc. working together to achieve mutual goals, but then, at the end of the day, avoiding each other like the plague. Seriously.

So, why does the left want to force everyone to not only tolerate, but accept every viewpoint, opinion, belief, practice, and person that they throw at society? Why must the rest of uss embrace every damn thing they come up with?

Well, near as I can figure, they are pretty sure that their ideas, opinions, beliefs, practices, and a hell of a lot of their people, are ridiculous, unlikeable, and unacceptable. But somehow, the left has held these things and people up as icons, and now wants the rest of us to do the same. If we do, the left gets the validation it so rabidly seeks. If we don’t, they see the reality of what they’re supporting and might have to admit that it’s all too ridiculous for words.

Prior to the last five years or so, I would have said, for the sake of public decorum, please tolerate the whack-a-doos and their opinions. However, given that they are now actively and constantly acting in an intolerant manner towards anybody who disagrees with them, I say…fuck it. Let them know in public that you don’t agree with them.

Explain the definition of tolerance and tolerate. Go with the endure/endurance definition. I think that makes the point the best.

BUT…hone your polite but vicious responses. Don’t let them get away with anything. Make sure they and those around you understand exactly how intolerant and evil they really are.

Call them out on everything. Constantly ask them to define tolerance. Ask them for examples of how they practice tolerance.

Remind them that tolerance does not equal acceptance and/or validation, rather it is simply acknowledgement of differing opinions, beliefs, practices, etc. that are different from one’s own.

If you really want to watch them implode, ask them how they live with themselves when they’re so blatantly intolerant of others.

Have fun with it.

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3 Replies to “Tolerance”

  1. For at least the last century, ‘tolerance’ got abused to mean that you had to pretend that things were equivalent.

    As a polite fiction in limited circumstances, that’s fine and good. Say, someone mentions in the course of something else that they support a political party that is opposite of your own, you don’t derail everything to oppose it. Similar things for religion or sexually related issues.
    Especially if everyone is playing by the same rules, it works really well, allows genuine diversity.

    As an actual policy, though…. that doesn’t work, at all.
    2+2=4 is not the same as 2+2=5, nor 2+2=3, and if you are dealing with accounting this is very important to recognize.

    Circling back to the same rules thing– when one side gets to chase down every mention of politics to wipe it out? It also doesn’t work, even as a polite fiction.

    That’s how you get things like the running joke that a “compromise” means “I’ll take somewhat less than everything, and we’ll talk about something you want in the future.”

    So “tolerance” comes to mean “you vocally agree with anything that I say, or shut up and just act like it.” Compassion means “you open your wallet for the thing I want to support.” Etc.

    1. Exactly. I’m so very tired of the changing goalposts of definitions and the gaslighting that goes along with it. But they’ve decided that their way is the only moral way, thus that justifies their hatred and disgust for anything and anyone that does not agree with them. And now, you are required to not only agree, but actively support.

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