Wrestling with what we’re willing to tolerate is healthy. And necessary.
Tolerance has come up a lot lately. We test the limits of what we’re willing to tolerate and what it means to be tolerant. It’s the sort of idea that comes and goes with the rise and fall of tragedies and terror.
And I get why. Tolerance is that sort of thing which always sounds good.
“Peggy is so tolerant of different views. She never flies off the handle!”
“John just needs to be more tolerant of people he hasn’t met.”
Tolerance is the stand-in for being agreeable and decent when the world is upside down and we’re all hanging on for dear life. It’s the dog in the middle of fire saying “this is fine.” Calm and collected when the rest of us are screaming our heads off.
Sometimes it’s like always being nice.
We talk about tolerance in such abstract and absolute ways that we don’t understand what it is really about. That tolerance itself isn’t an absolute, but a willingness to express grace. Tolerance requires that we be willing to hold it as long as it is healthy to do so. Like we tolerate pain from exercise knowing that we’ll get stronger. Or we tolerate a friend’s odd behavior because they mean well or don’t know any better.
And sometimes we have to stop. When the pain gets too much or our health is in danger.
We never tolerate everything all the time. And in a tolerant society, it isn’t hypocritical to restrict the intolerant. In fact, it’s necessary.
This is why we have to be far more careful with our absolutes, from tolerance and inclusion to liberty and free speech. For the protection of speech or personal liberty for one can come at the cost of the speech or liberty of another.
And right now, being absolutely tolerant is making this same grand mistake.
Being tolerant isn’t our only choice. Sometimes, we need to put our collective foot down.
Recently, I posted on Facebook an “ad hoc list of things I will no longer tolerate”. A list which revolves around a few common themes: namely honesty, integrity, and compassion. In other words, hallmarks of love.
11 Things I will not tolerate today
- Acting like these nice young fellows aren’t technically Nazis or that Nazis are no big deal.
- Treating domestic terrorists like drunk kids on the quad.
- False equivalency, whataboutism, and bothsidesism.
- Binary arguments.
- Treating hypocrisy as a greater sin than criminal conspiracy, discrimination, or extortion.
- Putting all the pressure on inclusive voices to tolerate the destroyer of community.
- Giving equal time to the creators of inequality.
- Being used as a punching bag because I’m the tolerant one.
- Presuming I have only one, static take on a broad topic like “guns” or “speech”.
- Blaming those who oppose white supremacy because white supremacy is rising.
Really, I’m done with any argument which blames the victim more than the accuser. Any attempt to manufacture a story about a set of events so it will align with one’s worldview is fundamentally flawed. Arguments which spread the blame around or seek to change the subject only put a thumb on the scales of justice.
All these things are fundamentally dishonest and prevent us from coming together to deal with our problems.
Division doesn’t come because we’re “both” at fault. But because too many of us force our conversation through a Left/Right sorting machine and then conclude that ascribing blame to all parties equally will magically bring us together. Like saying the magic words of “both sides” will suddenly cause everyone in the room to hang their heads in shame.
Or the more insulting idea: that we can’t coming together if holding the powerful accountable is on the table.
It’s all weak tea. It’s all ahistorical ridiculousness. And it’s disingenuous.
I’m not willing to tolerate all these things which compromise true reconciliation.