What do you tolerate, what do you accept and what is the difference?
This can be confusing. There is a tendency to equate tolerance with acceptance when, even though there are similarities, there is a different vibration and meaning to these two concepts.
For example, if you tolerate someone or something does it mean that you accept everything about that person or entity? Or are you simply, grudgingly putting up with them or it?
Take for instance a neighbor or co-worker of yours. You are acutely aware and conscious of the differences between you. You know for a fact that your political views are radically different, your cultural background and traditions at opposite ends of the spectrum and your religious upbringing, faith and beliefs seem to be in direct conflict.
Can you enjoy this person despite the apparent chasm between you? Can you comfortably live next to this person, or share an office with them when there is so much dividing you?
Tolerance is about allowing the existence of someone or something, even though you may vehemently dislike or disagree with their values, practices, beliefs or views – it is “the allowance or sufferance of conduct with which one is not in accord” (Dictionary.com).
For many people tolerance is challenging because they fear it questions, undermines, invalidates or negates their own views and beliefs – be they social, cultural, religious, political or sexual. Can opposing values and beliefs comfortably co-exist? Who is right and who is wrong?
When tolerance is practiced, however, it begins to open the door to an expansion of awareness, a broader perspective and a flexibility of mind (see previous article: “Stretch the body, stretch the mind”). In other words, the issue of who or what is right or wrong no longer matters.
The practice of tolerance is often the first step towards acceptance.
Acceptance leads us down the path of examining more deeply the concept of conflict – not only between cultures, nations, religions and political parties, but also within ourselves – our adherence or aversion to one end of the spectrum or the other.
Can we allow our beliefs and values to change? What does that say about us? Often times the picture that causes us to hold onto beliefs, truths and values beyond their expiration date – and, as a result, refuse to tolerate or accept – is that if we change we might be seen as weak, as a traitor or perhaps even wrong to have believed what we previously held true – our balance becomes compromised and we risk losing control.
Acceptance also has us recognize the dichotomies that exist within our own space – spirit and body, light and dark, good and evil, hot and cold – and creates space for us to find balance within those polar opposites. It is from this place of balance and acceptance that healing and “wholeness” is able to come about.
If we adhere only to one end of the spectrum, denying, resisting or in fear of the opposite end, then we are denying, resisting and fearing a part of ourselves.
Tolerance without acceptance is like going half way and getting stuck. In order for each of us to be “whole”, it is necessary to accept everything about ourselves – the good and the bad, the positive and the negative, our weaknesses and our strengths, our flaws as well as our assets. Embracing the full spectrum of our existence allows us to learn and grow, come into balance and heal our “whole” selves.