Sunday, July 07, 2013

Claiming Tolerance

What does it mean to claim to be a tolerant person? What do tolerating or being intolerant require? 

Webster says that tolerance includes (1) the "capacity to endure pain or hardship" (synonymous with endurance, fortitude, stamina); (2) "sympathy or indulgence for beliefs or practices differing from or conflicting with one's own"; (3) "the act of allowing something" (toleration); (4) "the allowable deviation from a standard" (as in machinery tolerance). 

A familiar form of intolerance occurs when adults impatiently tell very young children:  "Your behavior is totally unacceptable!" For example, I saw a woman and young boy, a normal, not-yet-civilized, toddler. She expected him to grasp a complicated concept by telling him, "Your behavior is totally unacceptable." What would that phrase mean to a very young, toddling child other than gibberish that does not inform him as much as a gentle, firm "No" could do, I wonder.  

The kind of tolerance or intolerance most often seen happens during discussions of societal norms or changes, along with a form of self-congratulatory Intolerance, which can be slammed against one disagreeing with a prevailing or emerging view. 

Public, family, or social occasions increasingly give rise to ironic dramas of us against them in these matters. Many tolerant people, on the one hand, honestly do not realize how personally intolerant they sound unless they hear themselves, and a light dawns or a burst of realization occurs. 

All of us need a little help "to see ourselves as others see us," as Bobby Burns put it, and with a large sprinkling of tolerance...if so lucky.
Playing for Pizza by John Grisham (2012; fiction category) is new in Jean's Hand-Picked Books at No.1.
Copyright (c) 2013 Jean Purcell

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