Want to be met with hate and ignorance? Sometimes the simplest way to find it seems to be by hopping on social media, which we all consume everyday. However, today, on the International Day for Tolerance, it’s possible for us to put some effort in to heal wounds — of this world, of your social network, or of your own — with the gift of tolerance.
What does tolerance mean?
Good question. Let’s start at the beginning. Simply put, tolerance is the willingness and ability to be with, in spite of differences or aversion. It requires us to accept and embrace that which we don’t understand.
It can mean to remain in a situation — assuming it’s safe — even if it challenges us in some way. Now, it doesn’t mean that we abandon our own beliefs or convictions, but rather, “hold space” for others to have theirs. It takes courage to do this; look critically at ourselves, and then directly into the eyes of the other.
Why do it?
The gift in tolerance is that it allows us to open the door to inclusive conversations, our hearts to authentic connections, and our minds to new information.
5 steps to cultivating a tolerance practice
Should you feel called to practice more tolerance for yourself and others, try these 5 steps and you will surely reap(e) the benefits:
R: Reflection + Response
Recognize that tolerance first originates within oneself. Think about it: If you are in the position to practice tolerance, it suggests that something within you is feeling uncomfortable. Take time to reflect on your personal history to understand why this might be.
Once you’ve done that, try responding in a new way. Perhaps you are listening to someone express a belief that is different from your own. Can you suspend judgment for a moment and just pause and listen? You may learn something new!
Or maybe you are being forced to confront some difficult emotions. Can you tolerate that discomfort in order to process where the feelings are coming from?
Put yourself in the other person’s shoes and try to understand why they may be feeling, thinking, or acting the way they are. This will help you develop a better understanding of them, which will create room for tolerance to grow!
Learn to accept what’s difficult, whether it be your own feelings or experiences or someone else’s. And remember that acceptance doesn’t mean agreement or resignation. You can accept that a certain emotion is present, without liking it or wanting it to stick around forever. You can also accept a person, without agreeing with everything they represent.
Remind yourself that no human is perfect, so when someone is rubbing you the wrong way, ask yourself what makes you the authority on perfection? Chances are, others have had to tolerate less favorable aspects of you at some point or another. No reason to feel shame about this, but all the more reason to practice tolerance!
The best way to practice tolerance is with a big heaping dose of love and compassion. Embrace new ideas. Embrace challenging emotions. Embrace that co-worker who is always pushing your buttons. Embrace the parts of yourself that you like to keep hidden.
Once you do, you’ll see that walls formed by hate can’t stand up against a force as great as tolerance; and when that wall comes crashing down, the whole world will reap the benefits!
Ryan Andrews, LCSW, psychotherapist, for TheBeeHive