Building Tolerance by Breaking Walls
Today is UNESCO’s International Day for Tolerance, a day set aside each year to affirm that tolerance is neither indulgence nor indifference. As defined by the UN Declaration, it is respect and appreciation of the rich variety of our world’s cultures, our forms of expression and ways of being human. Tolerance recognizes the universal human rights and fundamental freedoms of others. People are naturally diverse; only tolerance can ensure the survival of mixed communities in every region of the globe.
In honor of this important day, I share with you my thoughts…
Our world today – we need a lot more than tolerance.
In our families, in our workplaces, in our communities of people of different religions, different colors, you hear so frequently people talking about tolerating each other. “We should create a world of tolerance,” they say.
But, tolerance tends to be something that we do with a wall between us. I will agree to co-exist with you on my side of the wall; you agree to co-exist with me on your side of the wall. But, there’s still a wall between us.
My lack of tolerance comes because on some level I believe that you should be the way that I want you to be. Whether you’re the wrong color or the wrong religion or the wrong socio-economic status or sexual orientation – even if you load the dishwasher the wrong way – it’s me saying that I know the right way, and I refuse to budge or bend.
If I don’t tolerate you, it’s a conscious choice that I’ve made. It’s a conscious choice I’ve made that says I’m right and you’re wrong, I know the way people and things should be, I know the way people should speak and act and I’m right and you’re wrong. That’s what lack of tolerance is. It’s a conscious decision to not accept that there might be another way.
So, what’s really essential is that we need to build tolerance. Then we need to go beyond it.
How do we even build tolerance? It requires us to actually breath into the awareness that the universe has no responsibility to act according to how I dictate. The universe has no responsibility to do what I say, to dance according to my tune, to jump when I say jump.
This is where the practice of moving from intolerance to tolerance, from tolerance to respect, from respect to acceptance and from acceptance to love is actually a spiritual practice on our part because it requires us to change. It requires us to open and soften. It breaks the walls that are inside of us. Our lack of tolerance doesn’t only hurt the person we don’t tolerate, it hurts us. So, that practice of learning to tolerate and then moving from tolerance to accepting to respect and to love is a practice for us. The minute we get into respect and love, that wall disintegrates.
Now, think of someone in your life that you just can’t tolerate. Can’t tolerate it or them, won’t tolerate it or them. Take a moment to conjure up in your mind the image of that person or thing. Really think about them. Notice what happens in your body as you think about them. Notice especially in your heart, in your belly, your face. Now think about someone that you love. Think of the person you love most unconditionally in the world. Think about them. Notice the change that takes place in your body. Notice the change in your solar plexus, your belly, your heart and mind and face. Feel the difference?
When we can’t tolerate, we contract. Did you feel it? The heart just squeezes, the mind squeezes, the belly squeezes…you think about someone that you love and your whole being just goes Ahhhhhhhhh…
If there’s someone of a different race, or religion, or different culture or sexual orientation…someone with a different personality, is the best that we can do just to tolerate them? No. we can actually embrace them.
Have things you can’t tolerate? Learn to tolerate them. Have people you can’t love? Learn to love them. You don’t have to love their actions or their personalities or their behavior, but at least love the spirit of who they are in such a way that their behaviors and their actions don’t keep you up at night or make you tense in the heart and the stomach and the mind. Don’t allow it to be something that you carry with you the rest of the years of your life.
Break down those walls. Build-up that tolerance. And, then, turn it into love.