Saturday, December 29, 2012

In the Name of Tolerance or I am Not a Wuss

It was like a bad bluegrass joke about what happens to a banjo player when…only it wasn't a joke. A banjo player I know got decked.  More than one person thought he had it coming and dismissed it until it happened again and there was property damage. Jack justified what he did by calling Dan a bully.  That’s the problem with violence, it’s easy to justify and it’s never the answer, never. I don’t think Dan is a bully, just not very bright about how to be part of a group. He says things that are insensitive, but rarely really mean, like I said, not very bright.  I've questioned how to deal with him over the years; mainly I've ignored him in the name of tolerance and let the group handle it.

But, when is enough enough?  How much bad behavior should we accept in the name of tolerance?  And is that even tolerance?   One definition of tolerance is the unconditional love and acceptance of another being. I don’t know about you but I would like to be loved and accepted unconditionally. Tolerance is an attitude of loving kindness.  When you are tolerant you allow people to be who they are, not who you think they are or who you want them to be, who they are.  You let them be who they are flaws and all. After all, being flawed isn't a crime, if it were we’d all be guilty of it to one degree or another.

That doesn't mean that you agree with what everyone is doing. It does, however mean that you do not resist it. And like forgiveness that’s something you do for yourself in service to your soul. It has nothing to do with anyone else. When a person is behaving badly they are showing us where they are wounded. It is where they need to be loved. It is not an invitation to change them especially not through force of any kind and that includes verbal assaults and sharp tongued retorts. Rather, it is an invitation to stay centered in peace and love them as much as we can.

 The gunslinger in me has problems with that.  I know for sure that the failure to set limits in the name of tolerance is just as detrimental to the well being of people as the lack of tolerance is.  I wonder if sometimes what we call tolerance isn't really a mask for our inability to know how and when to set limits. Let’s face it putting up with something can be easier then confrontation especially when you just want to have fun or it doesn't affect you directly.  I don’t think that’s being tolerant though.  I think that’s being a wuss.

It is an act of loving kindness to set limits when someone is doing something that is harmful to themselves, someone else or the group.  That’s where group norms come in, those agreed upon set of behaviors that we all agree to participate in for the greater good of the group and the individual. You set and respect boundaries regardless of the problems it may cause or how uncomfortable it may be as an act of love. You set boundaries and trust that in a healthy group your boundaries will be respected. 

That means you put on your big girl panties and you say something. You have a conversation even if you don’t know how and you would rather do anything else.  You trust that what you need to say and the way you need to say it will come to you. You are not in this alone, none of us are.  You seek the path of peace and trust that you will be guided.

Tolerance is not turning a blind eye or white knuckling it through a situation. It’s accepting that we all are flawed as part of the human condition and we are doing the best we can. The other part of tolerance is knowing when and how to say something. The key is doing it with compassion and respect because if tolerance is unconditional love then intolerance is using force to make others change.  The absolute bottom line is this; it’s either fear or love, baby.


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