Let's set the scene: a group of peers are having a respectful discussion and debate about different social issues and their level of support for each. Someone brings up the topic of LGBTQ rights, and a member of the group's response is brief and includes the word “tolerance.” The rest of the group nods and moves on because this response seems to bring forth more of a negative connotation than positive.
Ever since I was old enough to develop my own opinions about social issues and be able to support them with either personal experience or in-depth research, I have been somewhat irked by the word “tolerance.” Most of us were taught that tolerance is an important concept in becoming a more inclusive society. We were taught that with tolerance, people would be safe to practice their own belief systems without fear of prejudice. Tolerance was meant to be a stepping-stone for people with different values to coexist without hate.
I believe that part of this is true, that tolerance is an important step. However, tolerance is not enough, and it is not the final step. The idea of tolerance is not one that will lead to real change, and should, therefore, be extended and built upon.
Tolerance is, as defined by Dictionary.com: “a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions, beliefs, practices, racial or ethnic origins, etc., differ from one's own.”
Another definition says tolerance is “the act of enduring; endurance.”
What I gather from these definitions is that you can dislike someone's values and all you have to do is permit them. Who gave the authority for that? Also, isn't “enduring” usually associated with something negative? These do not seem like the kind of ideas that make for very positive or loving interactions.
When we decide to simply tolerate something, the personal growth ends there. When we teach our children tolerance instead of acceptance, we are teaching them that there is not a point in even attempting to understand another point of view as long as they allow it to exist. If tolerance is the foundation of inclusion in today's society, then acceptance is the castle to be built upon said foundation. Acceptance is about self-growth and discovery. It is about telling someone you accept everything they are and choosing to love that about them despite your differing views.
Great strides have been made. More and more people are practicing love and acceptance in their daily lives. Each interaction that includes acceptance, however small and brief, is one more step of positive change, is one more stone to build that castle. With this, we find that acceptance is key in propelling our communities forward to a place of human kindness and one with much less hate.
So go forth into the world and remember that the small moments of acceptance matter just as much as the big ones. Remember that one act of kindness and love can influence everyone around you. Accept acceptance and see your world change for the better.