I recently read, “Tolerance means willingness to allow others to do or say what they want without criticizing them … a quality which enables one to tolerate the presence of others. We see intolerance in every walk of our lives. … Fanaticism in religion, race, politics, culture and everything breeds intolerance and leads to fights and riots. The only remedy for all these troubles is the practice of tolerance. Intolerance has done a lot of harm to mankind. In order to get rid of all kinds of discord or disharmony, tolerance can play a supreme role in our social and national life.”
Is this a good definition of “tolerance,” or does is seem a bit simplistic? Is tolerance that easy in today’s ever-changing world? What happens when we’re trying to tolerate someone who is speaking lies? What if the person is offending a family member, especially our mother? Is it okay to tolerate talking like that? Should we retreat in the name of tolerance, when we hear despicable language spewing out of the mouths of teenagers, or try to correct them?
Please don’t misunderstand. Tolerance is a necessity for all of us. However, civility (read more…) in my opinion, is the best form of tolerance.
In researching tolerance for my upcoming book, Calming the Chaos: How To Live Beautifully in a Broken World, I discovered three kinds of tolerance, and that we should distinguish one from the other, if we intend to view and display tolerance effectively and realistically:
- “Legal” tolerance: The recognition that each person has the legal right to believe whatever he or she determines is true or best.
- “Social” tolerance: The recognition that people ought to be treated with dignity and respect regardless of their religious beliefs.
- “Uncritical” tolerance: The notion that no religious belief should be evaluated as being false or inferior to any other religious belief. All religious beliefs should be granted equal status as a claim to truth.
These definitions of tolerance From Dr. Erwin Lutzer’s Christ Among Other Gods certainly got my attention.
Once I had read these descriptions several times, I concluded very few of us practice legal tolerance and/or social tolerance. Further, before we think “political correctness” is the same as legal and/or social tolerance, let me point out that it’s not. Try to reflect back on the election cycle of 2015-2016, and remember the shouting matches, the insults, and personal attacks between candidates and those hosting the debates.
When it comes to uncritical tolerance, the price is too high for me and most other people. If we accept all claims of truth as equal—even when they oppose one another, then there is no value in truth whatever. Accordingly, we might as well quit thinking, discerning, pondering, hoping, and connecting with one another in a meaningful way. Think of it this way; if we don’t stand for anything, we’ll fall for everything.
Consider this — if we don’t apply critical thinking to our lives, our ability to make decisions based on reason, reality, and truth, our responsiveness to God won’t be effective and worthwhile.
Don’t we want our lives to reflect something worthwhile?
Can you explain your answer to that question and how it fits your life?
Until next time …