The Endurance of Tolerance

The word Tolerance comes from Latin – Tolerantia – To endure

Today’s world seems to have evolved beyond the word “tolerance”, new adjectives have taken its place with the intention to create more positive connotations. Acceptance is one of those words, for example, whereas tolerance is slowly becoming an archaic term for a time beyond ours. 

What negative connotations does this word carry along? Perhaps, in today’s understanding we can tolerate something that may imply this unspoken sentence “hey, I know you don’t like this but you have to tolerate it and swallow your dislike. Because its the right thing to do!” rather than today’s concept that “No, its not ok that you just tolerate it and deep inside you still disapprove and dislike, this is wrong in so many ways!”  The first sentences implies that it is fine that deep inside you disagree and disapprove of this, however your behaviour needs to adjust, so you become more tolerant. While the second one is requiring the counterpart a much harder task, to change mindset and perhaps mental constructions in order to accept what in the first place goes against the perceived values and principles of that person. First of all that is an assumption that when a person tolerates something, it necessarily something one disagrees with. 

Nonetheless, even if today’s world is replacing that word with others, perhaps more correct ones in expressing what humanity needs and what action in necessary, let’s take a short pause to admire the qualities of tolerance and for what purpose this is not an outdated word, since today is the International Day for Tolerance

  1. Lets acknowledge what tolerance as  a word stands against: hatred, discrimination, indifference (intolerance) stand at the antipodes of tolerance, therefore gaining positive a constructive connotation as compared to its destructive and negative opposites. 
  2. Tolerance is a journey, a process, not a destination on itself, accomplishing this is milestone on the way to acceptance and integration, until what ever was at the foundation of the intolerant behaviour is removed. 
  3. Tolerance is a behaviour, manifests itself towards the tolerant behaviour of individuals towards specific people, ideas, groups, identities etc. While acceptance is an attitude something that takes shape and form in the personality. Can we achieve acceptance before having actually adopted a tolerant behaviour? 
  4. Practicing Tolerance implies learning patience, the patience to endure the path to acceptance of what is different from my worldview. 
  5. Tolerance is also a capacity, that of recognising and respecting the beliefs of practices of others that differ from one’s own. 

And most of all it is a the process and milestone that leads from behaviour to transformation of the attitude, through endurance and patience. 

And to conclude, tolerance is yes a behaviour which can be both proactive and reactive, when taking Popper’s Paradox, “as paradoxical as it may sound defending tolerance requires not tolerate the intolerants.” 

L. Nava

Published by Lorenzo Nava

Consultant, Trainer and Coach, on participatory learning processes, experiential learning dynamics, non formal education and NLP certified practitioner