It is said that the only thing that we should be intolerant of is intolerance. This is a paradox as to be tolerant of intolerance means that we are supporting the very opposite of what we are seeking to promote. To be tolerant of intolerance can also create the most destructive of emotions and actions.
If a ‘Hitler’ were to emerge again today, someone who inspired other people to go and kill another six million people in cold blood, would it be ok to tolerate this behaviour or should we go to war to challenge this? For me the answer is an undoubted ‘yes’ we go to war. I don’t want to go to war and I think that killing, in all forms is wrong, and yet yes, I would go and fight to protect the freedom of us all.
What is your intolerance?
There is a sense in which we all need to understand and accept that we are each intolerant of different things. The Mindful approach is to be aware enough to be able to see our own intolerance and to do our best to not let this affect or infect other people’s worlds or experiences.
How do I know that I am right?
One of the principles of Mindfulness is in understanding that the mind will present our thoughts and beliefs as though they are facts. At best our opinion is biased and at worst it is prejudice. We assume that we know things, perhaps we do not?
One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter
In all cases of tolerance and intolerance there is the issue of which side are you on? If both sides believe that they are right and that they are fighting for a just cause. At the outset, if both believe that God is on their side then technically they cannot both be right. So, how do we know what is the right thing to do, what should we be tolerant of?
The feeling behind intolerance
For me, most cases of tolerance and intolerance are not cognitive they are emotional. It probably comes down to what do you feel rather than what do you think. When we attend to our own intuition we can often get a gut feeling about something. It is a bit like a piece of Litmus paper that will tell us instantly if a substance is acid or alkaline. You intuition works in the same way. When you listen to your inner voice, to your intuition, it will tell you instantly how things are. Our intuition is probably as close as we can get to making sense of what is right and wrong and what is tolerable.
My inner voice tells me that all behaviours that harm other beings in any way are intolerable. This includes all forms of bullying, abuse, deprivation, manipulation, exploitation, and so on. In my world this means that the behaviour of many professionals from politicians, lawyers, estate agents, car salesmen and, most managers are unacceptable and intolerable. As a vegetarian I would include the killing of animals and the eating of meat, but this is just my own point of view.
Tolerance always has a bias. Perhaps it is working for the best results for the majority that is as good as we can get. When it works well we call this democracy. Perhaps at an individual level, our responsibility is to question what we feel, what we do, why we think what we think? If we listen to our inner voice we might just get it right for our self and hopefully for other people as well.
Think about your intolerance and how it effects other people. Also check out your tolerance and how it effects other people. You may be surprised at what you find. If some things seem unresolvable you may need to check your attitudes out with a therapist to enable you to understand where you are up to, how you got there and where you are going.
One thing that I can assure you of is that tolerance is a lot less stressful than intolerance.
Take care be happy and be as tolerant as you can be