Sunday, October 9, 2011

On tolerance....

    “Tolerance is so important.”  I heard this this morning at Mass.  It is a sentiment one hears everywhere these days.  It is a sentiment I disagree completely with, however.  Tolerance, to me, is a problem.  It is not the answer to all of the world’s problems as it seems to be, to so many people. 

We are told that what the world needs is more tolerance.  We, as a people, are encouraged to tolerate people’s differences, tolerate the choices of others, whatever they may be, tolerate new ideas of good vs. evil (ideas which change and vary from one person to another).  Tolerance, it seems, has become synonymous with acceptance, and acceptance, synonymous with peace.  Tolerance is held up as the ultimate expression of morality.

    But, no matter what “the world” wants to believe or to preach, tolerance is not synonymous with love. To tolerate means to withstand the unpleasant effects of something, or to be willing to allow something to happen or exist.   It has come to mean further, to recognize other people's right to have different beliefs or practices without attempting to suppress them.  Whatever definition you prefer, tolerance is dealing with something, living with something, but it is not the same as embracing something, or for that matter, someone.

    Jesus loved but He did not tolerate.  He loved all people, called all people closer to Himself, reached out to all people, but never once did He tolerate.  He went way beyond acceptance of each person He encountered, He loved them.  He loved them right where they were, and just as they were, but He never let them stay there.  He called them all to something more, something better.  He called them away from their sinful ways and mediocre existences.  He pointed out their areas of weakness, of misunderstanding, of sinfulness.  He told them to rise above it, to turn to God and live a better life. 

Jesus would never have tolerated, nor preached a gospel of tolerance.  Because tolerance, especially in today’s definition of it means allowing, even encouraging, sinfulness.  It means leaving each other alone to do right or wrong (most often wrong it seems to me) without ever trying to help anyone to do what God wants of them.  Tolerance is not about helping others to heaven, or even helping others to happiness.  It is about leaving others to wallow in their weak, sinful ways without helping, without loving.

I think Jesus would be incredibly disappointed in a society that stops at a level of tolerance, that does not strive for so much more.  True love never stops at mere acceptance.  Tolerance is such a cop out in many ways. 

We are called to love and love means wanting what is best for others.  It means we must never tolerate the sins of others, sins that hurt and affect us all.  We must do all we can to lead our friends, family members, neighbors, and even strangers, if we can, to a life that rejects sin, not a life that celebrates it.  Jesus teaches us to love the sinner and hate the sin.  Our worlds seems to ignore the sinner and embrace the sin.   If that is tolerance, then tolerance is selfishness.

I would never allow my children to simply tolerate each other.  In our home, we strive each and every day to love one another.  It is not always easy.  There are all those little annoyances, all those petty disagreements, all those opportunities to criticize and tease and stir up trouble.  Maybe if my children could just tolerate each other things would be quieter at my house.  But quiet can be quite overrated.  Quiet is not the goal.   

Simple tolerance is not an option.  I expect love.  I want a family full of love.  Love, kindness, joy, and true feelings of gratitude for one another.  I am hoping for, praying for, real Christ-centered love that manifests itself in an enduring desire to help each other to a place of growth in holiness and virtue in my home.... and in the world around it.


  1. Kari,

    You did such a beautiful job with this post. Thanks for sharing the truth.

    Because the truth is, you are exactly right...this was one of my biggest annoyances with both teaching in the public school district...and sending out daughter there for kindergarten. Over and over we teach "tolerance". But really what we are teaching, is acceptance of selfish, sinful behaviors. So different, as you pointed out from loving someone right where they are...yet loving them enough to show them a better way.

    I know many would disagree with us, but I stand proudly with you in saying I won't "tolerate" every behavior that society says I should or only expect my children to "tolerate" each other...especially as they age and take up individual paths.

    Ironically, last night I was watching CNN and Piers Morgan. (I'll save my political rant!) My point, though, is that Piers had Joel Osteen and his wife on. Now, I have a real problem with the preaching and teaching of prosperity gospel messages, BUT, I do have to give credit to the Osteens. Piers Morgan kept trying to nail the Osteens for their refusal to state that they would condone or accept gay marriage. Piers Morgan could not get over that someone who considered himself a follower of Christ, wouldn't want to love and support a same-sex union. The Osteens firmly held to their position that of all the marriage covenants shared in both the Old and New Testaments...not one was between same-sexed people. Morgan wanted to know if they would change their position if Texas ever legalized same-sex marriage as more "enlightened" states have done.


    Anyway, as I watched the news this AM and saw how the Prysbeterian USA church has now ordained gay ministers, all I could think of was...Wow, I'm so glad I'm a Catholic.

    Sorry so long...didn't set up to write a soap opera! I'll get off of my soapbox!


  2. Val- I am so glad you are willing to stand on the soapbox with me!!!!! I was definitely ranting a little myself, but I get so fed up with people buying into the lies, and especially other Christians. Glad to hear the Osteens, who are so respected and well known, have not caved. I agree with you that some of their other beliefs are a little questionable but at least someone is willing to go on national t.v. and stand up for the truth about the sanctity of marriage. There is always hope......

  3. I love this post. the blogoshere needs more posts like this one!! and yet, the mainstream media doesn't "tolerate" Catholicism. ((isn't the Our Lady of La Leche Shrine beautiful and so quiet and contemplative. It's always wonderful when I meet others who have been there, and listen to their story)).



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