Tolerance Is a Double-Edged Sword

Most dictionaries agree that tolerance is the ability or willingness to accept opinions, beliefs, behaviors, and ways of life different from our own, even if we disagree or disapprove of them.

On the surface, that seems an estimable quality, perhaps even exemplary. But tolerance is double-edged. It has a sharp edge and rough edge. Its sharp edge is broad-mindedness. Its rough edge is permissiveness.

Lucie Stastkova
Image is courtesy of Lucie Stastkova

What might we expect from the rough edge of tolerance – the indiscriminate acceptance of injustice; violence; abuse; suffering? The answer to this is evidenced somewhat in our global society today, a large element of which is immune to the subtle and progressive infusion of violence; a world hardened and unaffected by behaviors that harm and by the elements employed to inflict it. We’re being brainwashed by a handful of plutocrats who seek to gratify their unquenchable thirst for money and power, and to hell with the rest of us.

When I first heard the words, “Teach Children Tolerance,” I wanted to shout, “We already have! We’ve taught them to tolerate and permit all that’s wrong with the world.” In other words: tolerance run amok.

We’re bombarded daily with images of violence. The news, TV programs, movies, and video games are rife with aggression, murder, hatred, and fear. These images are so frequent and pervasive that many have become desensitized to them and no longer question their presence, validity, or veracity. If it was on the news, it must be true, right? Adults have the ability to reason, but what are we teaching our children when we passively accept and don’t speak out against violence for violence’s sake, violence to make headlines, violence to gross millions?

We’ve grown complacent, even apathetic. Worse yet, we’ve come to expect hatred and violence. When we hear about travesties like the $3.8 billion Dakota Access Pipeline, we’re incensed, but we’re not surprised. When we hear about yet another terrorist strike somewhere in the world, we’re terrified and infuriated, but we’re no longer surprised.

Expectation is a powerful magnetic force. Many of us don’t realize or understand the inherent and powerful energy dynamics of the human mind. And of those who do, many don’t believe that the energy of thought and intention can travel at the speed of light, both inwardly and outwardly, and thus affect the world around us. The subconscious mind believes that what we expect we therefore desire. And the subconscious mind seeks to serve and gratify.

When we wield the rough edge of tolerance to the extent of habit, we become complacent. Once content inside our familiar little cocoons, it becomes ever easier to turn a blind eye to the injustice and devastation outside. Violence blaring from the TV soon strikes a deaf ear. Images of abuse and suffering crash and collapse against the doors of a closed heart. We soon find ourselves standing on the threshold of apathy. And apathy is a tough nut to crack.

So how to turn this around . . .

Short of an epiphany or incapacitating personal tragedy, disgust and desire come to mind. Both of these emotions can act as internal dynamite. That may sound overly simplistic, but I know that I’m never more moved to take action than when thoroughly disgusted or when aroused by desire. And I’m not referring to sexual desire; although that, too, is a mighty catapult! I’m talking about the urge to alleviate suffering and oppose violence; the compelling force that has its origins in love. I’m talking about the sharp edge of tolerance.

The sharp edge of tolerance allows us to accept without judgment those who look differently, believe differently, worship differently, love differently – all within the context of being rather than harmful action. Simultaneously, it doesn’t condone inflicting harm. It doesn’t sit idly by with remote in hand while suffering is perpetrated, injustice is legislated, and violence is wielded as a means to an end.

Within the context of being, the sharp edge of tolerance moves us to embrace cultural diversity. Within the context of harmful action, it moves us to confront wrongful adversity. It is not complacent and it is not self-righteous. It recognizes what serves and what does not serve to advance and enlighten the spirit. It has the keen ability to split a hair right down the middle, because life is not simply black and white.

Tolerance is a double-edged sword. It can engage and embrace that which serves the advancement of spirit, or it can idle in neutral and accept that which harms all of Mother Earth. It has a hand in defining who we are as a species. I wonder which edge of tolerance we humans will ultimately wield . . .

Until the next time, my friends . . .  Namaste 

© Tina Frisco 2016

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