Tolerating the intolerable

opinion
September 20, 2012
This article was published more than 2 years ago.
Est. Reading Time: 2 minutes

By: Yara Farran

I was thirteen when I came across a blog that detailed the differences between the words acceptance and tolerance. Before then, I believed that those words were synonymous—two shades of the same colour. However, I learned that that was not the case. They are two completely separate words, said to mean two distinct things. Then, I wonder, why does society treat them equally? Why are we taught at a very young age to tolerate, as opposed to accept?

Our kindergarten teachers would smile softly and tell us, in their cloyingly sweet voices, “Yes. He’s different, but you should still tolerate him.” Principals would preach that in this day in age, what with living in such a diverse world and all, we had to learn to tolerate those around us, regardless of their race, religion, sexual orientation and the rest.

The same could be said elsewhere. In workplaces, office rules and regulations outline that all employees must comply in a tolerant way, and that any other behaviour would be penalized. It’s cultural and has been engrained in our minds that tolerance is a form of goodness and is the code which a civilized society should follow.

However, I refute that. I refute tolerance.

Whenever I hear this word, I instantly want to crawl out of my skin. I think of a bullied child, aimlessly playing by his lonesome self at recess. I think of a gay couple being gawked at while holding hands. I think of a teenage mother ridiculed by her peers behind her back. I think of a society so obsessed with projecting an image of togetherness that it would do just about anything, other than, you know, actually be accepting.

Tolerance is a cop out; it’s a way to say, “I don’t agree with you, and find you morally/fundamentally wrong, but I’ll slap on a smile because I don’t want people to think I’m a bad person.” It’s the politically correct way of pretending not to be an asshole.

The thing is, it’s a beautiful world out there. There are so many different things to discover and so many people who can open up your perspective. If we spent less time “tolerating” and more time getting to know who people are and where they come from, we’d be more loving and respectful.  Love that your neighbour is someone different than you. Respect that your classmate has a different story than your own. Be glad and excited that you live in such a wonderful place that allows you to meet and connect with people from all walks of life.  Let’s erase the practice of tolerance and adopt acceptance.

Now, how about we all do one big group hug, eh?

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