Best of My Blog: You Don’t Need My Tolerance

July 20, 2012

I’m on vacation from home, work, and the blog July 16 – 27.  But that doesn’t mean the blog is going dark!  I’ll be featuring a couple of guest posts, a few reruns of some of my favorite posts you may have missed, and there will even be a fresh post on my new column at Prodigal Magazine.  Regular programming will resume Monday, July 30.


A generation ago, people talked about “tolerance.”

“Tolerance” meant that people lived next door to their neighbors in peace, and minded their own business.  Didn’t matter if your neighbors were a different religion or political party or sexuality.  Just live and let live.  Granted, it was a new concept for a lot of people.  Seems some people still don’t have the grasp of it.

We still talk about tolerance.  We use the word every day.  Heck, the cardinal sin you can commit is to be “intolerant” of someone.

But “tolerance” today means something totally different.  Because “tolerating” each other is no longer enough.  It’s not enough to “live and let live” or to mind your own business.

Want to know why our culture is so divided, so polarized?  Because we’re self-righteously waiting for a truckload of “tolerance” that we’re just never going to get.  The irony is that it’s only going to get worse, the more hung up on tolerance we become.

The New Definition of Tolerance

What you have to understand is that “tolerance” doesn’t just mean “tolerating others.”  Today, the convoluted, politically correct definition of “tolerance” really means “validation.”  See, it’s not enough to merely tolerate someone’s habits, beliefs or lifestyle choices.  To tolerate them really means you validate them.  The cardinal sin you can commit today is to believe that your beliefs or choices are better than someone else’s.

So we preach about how everyone’s opinions are equally valid and true, and everyone’s choices are equally beautiful (except for intolerant people.  They can go to hell.)  I can be a Christian…as long as I also accept Allah, Buddha, Vishnu, and all the other gods under the sun.  I can’t believe in antiquated notions of “right” and “wrong,” because that would mean some people are “wrong,” and calling someone wrong is intolerant!  We’ve devolved into a kind of modern day pantheism that even the Greeks would find completely absurd.

Now, we don’t talk about “tolerating” others.  We talk about “affirming” others, or “accepting” or “celebrating” others.  If you’re merely “tolerating” others, then you’re pretty much a racist, bigoted homophobe.

You Don’t Need My Tolerance

Guess what people…

You don’t need my validation.  I’m not your mother or your spouse.  Stop being so co-dependent.

No, I will not always validate your lifestyle or beliefs.  Don’t worry about it though.  You don’t need my permission to live your life however you want.  It’s within your rights as a human to live and believe as you wish.  And it’s within my rights to disagree with your choices.  My acceptance of your choices or lack thereof in no way hinders your ability to make them.  I’m not going to celebrate you, unless it’s your birthday.  And I’m not waiting for you to throw me a party either.

I love you.  I think you’re made in God’s image.

But I won’t always praise, validate, affirm, or celebrate you.  Please affirm my right to make that choice.  Stop accusing me of being intolerant, just because I disagree with you.

What Happened to Privacy?

I assume there was a time when people minded their own business.  Americans, more than anyone else, like to talk about their rights to privacy.  Good grief, we flip out at the mere hint that someone may be invading our privacy.  The irony of our modern crusade for acceptance is that it requires us to bring all our personal business out into the open, to give up all our privacy, so that we can force people to look at us, to accept us, to validate us.  Because, apparently, we have so little self esteem, that we need the approval of strangers.

And the real absurdity of it is we keep waiting around as if we’re going to get that approval.  

That’s why we’re so divided.  We’re a pretty tolerant society, but we keep telling other people how intolerant they are.  Maybe we’d be a lot less divided if we just went back to a time when people minded their own business.

What do you think?  Are we drunk on “tolerance?”  Are we still an intolerant society?  Do I have to “affirm” someone in order to really “tolerate” them?

7 responses to Best of My Blog: You Don’t Need My Tolerance

  1. Agree that this was one of your best. I think I posted it on my Facebook page.

  2. I shared this on my FB page. Wow. Well said.

  3. Absolutely belongs in “Best of Blogs.” You have very clearly shown how the definition of “tolerance” has morphed into something else. Tolerance is not affirmation, nor should failure to validate be considered intolerance.

    But it is possible that we have gone so far down this road that this nonsensical bit of political correctness cannot be fixed.

  4. If I were to go around trying to stop other people from being able to have guava ice cream that is being intolerant. Except it is often expected that I not only tolerate people who like guava ice cream and leave them to enjoy their ice cream, but I pretend that I think it is as good as chocolate or one of the other flavors I like. What is wrong with everyone making their own choices about what ice cream they want and then going off to cheer on their favorite team together or smiling at each other while enjoying a day at the park?

  5. You’re so right about this. Since when did we as a society become so needy?

  6. So well written. I agree. Tolerance is live and let live, it’s not “I think whatever you do is just great!” I’d love for people to go back to minding their own business. In the age of Facebook I don’t have a whole lot of hope, though.

  7. Thank you so much for this post! Definitely a good thing to keep in mind: the definition of tolerance has changed. Just watched an interview with Rick Warren on a major news network not long ago, and they were asking him if he was “tolerant”. He proceeded to tell them something along the lines of this post. You can be tolerant, without approving. Great points.