Tolerance vs Acceptance

Tolerance: fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions, beliefs, practices, racial or ethnic origins, etc., differ from one’s own; freedom from bigotry. (Dictionary.com)

Acceptance: The act of taking or receiving something offered. (Dictionary.com)

It occurs to me today that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr and Jesus taught the same principles. Equality, Love, Acceptance. Both were brutally beaten and, eventually, murdered. Why is that? What is it about loving each other that frightens people so badly that they must kill one another to stop it?

Based on the definitions in the dictionary I used, tolerance sounds like a good idea. However, I see it a bit differently. Tolerance is what I afford the guy who cuts in front of me in the passing lane to pass a semi, and then slows down when he realizes he is too afraid to pass. Though I might ask “what the hell?” in my head, I can tolerate going a bit slower while he takes a deep breath and forges ahead.

Tolerance is what I show to my husband when he spends a large part of the weekend playing video games. I love him unconditionally. I can put up with a few hours of Assassin’s Creed. That is called Acceptance, in my view. I knew about his penchant for video games before I married him. When he “offered” his proposal, I took it. Warts and all. Video games, driving skills (he’s a very good driver, by the way!), low balance bank accounts…I don’t just “tolerate” the man, I ACCEPT him. As he is, no questions asked. Because when you love unconditionally – like, say, Jesus or Dr King (and so many others) taught and teach us to love – it’s not “toleration”. It’s acceptance.

I don’t “tolerate” a person who has a different skin color/background/sexual orientation/national origin than I do, I accept them as a person. I “tolerate” a person who has control over how they act/react and does so in a way that I don’t understand and may not agree with. I don’t fear a person based on their religion or where they were born, I fear a person who has decided that one religion or country is “bad”, and should be eliminated. I celebrate and learn from the differences! I fear only those things that are a direct threat to my life or livelihood, and only when they are a direct threat.  I try to listen to all sides, research the pros and cons and make up my own mind.

For the record, accepting a person as he/she is does not mean that I have to be their best friend and subject myself to things with which I disagree. It doesn’t even mean that I have to like them. It just means that I allow myself to love them for who they are; even from a distance. I am not bound to burden myself with hatred just because someone is hateful toward me. I am not required to be angry – although it does happen – because someone is a bully, or passive-aggressively cruel. I am not forced to be mean just because someone else is mean.

Behavior is a choice. This is what we tolerate. And tolerance is good. Necessary, in fact. Where a person is born, who they are attracted to, the language they speak, the color of their skin…these are things that should be ACCEPTED, not just put up with or “tolerated”. I was born in Utah. When I was 3, my family moved to Nevada. When I was 6, we moved back to Utah. Shortly after that, my mom found a boyfriend and left my dad with 4 small children to raise. NONE of this was within my control, and I refuse to be judged by those circumstances. What’s more, I refuse to judge others by their circumstances.

If someone chooses to be a victim, so be it. I choose not to be, but I accept others’ choices. I accept a child who lashes out due to circumstances beyond their control, and tolerate an adult who lashes out despite the fact that they now have control of their choices and decisions. See the difference?

We don’t have to be hateful when hate is shown to us. We don’t have to judge others because others judge us. The fact is, we are all on the same journey. There are 7 BILLION people on this planet, and I believe that there is more love than hate. I also believe that “tolerance” is no longer a word that should be mainstream in the world. Accept a person for what and who they are. Keep your distance from those who you believe may mean you harm, but show compassion and love, not hate and fear.

On this day when we in the United States recognize Dr. King for the good he effected here, let’s just accept what is offered, and LOVE each other.

 

 

 

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