Why Tolerance is Bad


What does it mean to “tolerate?”

To me it means to simply “accept without confrontation,” or something to that effect. The definition I am using is not Webster’s but it is how most people in our society chose to use the word in context.

I’m sure you have your own unique definition, but it’s pretty much the same philosophy. It all comes down to the assumption that there is a fundamental difference or issue that “needs tolerating.”

I propose that there is something better than tolerance… the ideal form of it… what we all mean to say, to think, in the ideal world when we say “tolerance”. I don’t want to use the word “love”… but something similar… perhaps “acceptance” or “embracement.”

What I am saying, and a lot of people don’t realize, is that there is a difference between truly accepting differences and merely tolerating them. To me, tolerance sounds like “I’m trying not to lash out even though deep down I want to.” The word tolerance just seems shallow and so overused and misused. It’s so forced and fake. It seems to me to be un-virtuous.

To me, and see if you agree with this… acceptance is when differences come together willingly and coexist at least contently. Tolerance is when differences coexist, regardless of the friction, and maintain peace only for the greater good of societies survival.

The inability to act out is helplessness… the fear to try is cowardly. Choosing not to act out negatively for logical, worldly, or even empathetic reasons is tolerance. But acceptance is not feeling any inkling to act out in the first place because your heart feels no emotional burden to tolerate, conflict, or retreat.

Of course you shouldn’t be a push-over, either, nor should we eliminate the individual distinctions that cause conflict. I do have moral standards and pride in myself. I will fight for my rights and for fairness and for what I believe to be morally righteousness. I won’t debate whether or not there is a time for violence, that is a different issue. But I am suggesting that tolerance is not the greater good, acceptance is, and it means something completely different.

We pride ourselves and our society on our ability to tolerate one another… and all we are laying claim to is our self-control, our societies reluctance to deteriorate to an animalistic form in which we act on emotional drives. Our society is simply intolerant to active intolerance, thats all it really is. Can we really take pride in mere tolerance?

Consider this quote from an accepting individual I know:
“I love and embrace differences. I have no issues with anyone… I welcome and value differences.”…”There is no need to tolerate when you don’t have fears or conflicts.”…”Observing others is interesting because of how and why they do what they do… I may learn something from them.”

Consider this quote from a tolerating individual I know:
“I tolerate everyone no matter what their differences. I respect their right to follow whatever lifestyle they want, no matter how much I may disagree. If I don’t like it, I will associate with them as little as possible.”…”Sometimes I get irritated, so I just leave the room or disassociate from them.”

I think there is a major philosophical distinction to be seen here.

Does anyone else realize that just because you refrain from passing sentence does not mean you refrain from passing judgment?

Physical tolerance (ones action and outward responses) should not be confused with emotional tolerance. And intolerance of any kind is still intolerance.

Do you still consider yourself tolerant if someone pisses you off but you don’t act on your anger? I would argue that you are still intolerant because you still had a negative response, albeit emotional in nature and not physical. But in our society, for some reason, there must be physical actions for mentalities to be considered intolerant. Why? If you are so tolerant (accepting), why did you get angry in the first place?

The next time any of you have to count to ten (or some other technique) to get yourself calm and civilized… ask yourself if you’re really being the better person, or if you are just acting like it outwardly.

I’m pointing out the fact that tolerance is used in our society all the time and is considered a good thing in society. What I am saying is that tolerance is in fact bad, precisely for the reason its definition describes. Tolerance is not Acceptance – that is my point exactly.

What moral virtue does tolerance in society have if you know those who tolerate you have a reason to need to tolerate you (I.e. they have a reason to dislike you but pretend not to)? The necessity for us to tolerate each other in order to function only proves what’s truly in our hearts, and just how small our hearts are.

Tolerance is our ability to “put up with others,” our ability to put on a show and act respectable. It says nothing for how we view them as a person.

I’m trying to suggest that our “tolerating” society has a lot of pent up emotions to deal with… because we, as a whole, are not an accepting society. We still acknowledge our differences, but law and social trends force us to “tolerate” those differences while they fail to provide an outlet for our true un-accepting emotional responses, which is quite literally why fights break out and hate crimes occur on occasion.

It is my belief most people miss-label themselves as being “tolerant” even though they are emotionally (or under their breath) intolerant. And tolerance itself has the false label of being a virtue… when it is in fact a flaw when its your only tool in life against difference.

Mere tolerance, when left unchecked, can easily escalate to something far greater than a little under-the-breath huffing. How many “tolerating” people have had to apologize because they blew up at someone over what was insignificant in hindsight?

Tolerance is good if it keeps you bighting your tongue to prevent conflict, to be used circumstantially. But if tolerance is all you know then no issue will ever be resolved and bitterness grows.

Its sad that our teachers and parents teach tolerance when they should be teaching acceptance. Bitterness accumulates and no one ever learns how to accept others. Eventually we would break down emotionally and either lash out (with or without regret).

I’m not suggesting that just because you are capable of living your entire life without blowing up at others, that your tolerance never breaks down, that you are a good person at heart. A good person at heart wouldn’t get angry or bitter at differences and mere tolerance would be unnecessary.

Think about it.

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One Response to “Why Tolerance is Bad”

  1. Why Mere Tolerance is Good « Cogito's Words – Just Observing Says:

    […] Why Mere Tolerance is Good May 23, 2009 – CogitoErgoCogitoSum Tolerance isn’t completely bad. It can be thought of as a virtue, too. I must concede that much… and this is why:

    If you train in your life to accept and embrace differences and feel no animosities whatsoever, it does speak highly of you to some degree. […]


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