Jay Rifenbary

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The Hypocrisy of Professed Tolerance

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Why is it many individuals who champion strong beliefs in tolerance are often the most intolerant when you disagree with them? Tolerance is defined as “the ability or willingness to tolerate something, in particular the existence of opinions or behavior that one does not necessarily agree with.” Then why is there such an enormous amount of vitriol between groups that disseminate varying viewpoints, personally attack individuals for a differing opinion, and yet promote themselves as ambassadors of tolerance? As a proponent of liberty and freedom I genuinely believe in the right for anyone to express and share their opinions and beliefs with anyone, anytime at any place. However, righteous dismissal to opposing opinions by those who lobby for open-mindedness to their own agenda is mind-boggling and hypocritical. If I strongly believe in a woman’s right to choose and I am a crusader for tolerance to that position and opinion, should not an opposing belief in a woman’s desire for life be equally tolerated? If I am a proponent of gay marriage and that position is expressed respectfully should not an expression of a belief in marriage between a man and a woman being uniformly regarded as well?

Anytime an opinion is defended with disrespect, and distain towards the opposing position and person, it diminishes the credibility of the stance being defended. For example, when we observe proponents of issues on network and cable news, and the talking points presented, contemplate the elitism and derogatory behavior expressed by those who are challenged when they do not have the tact to respond to an opposing position. If I desire tolerance to a cause I believe in, then reciprocate with tolerance to those who are still attempting to understand your cause.

A recent example of the destructive nature of a lack of tolerance was the personal attacks directed at Miss California at the Miss USA Pageant in response to her belief in marriage. Agree or disagree, she had a right to express her opinion without being personally dismantled as a result. It would be as equally wrong to denigrate her if she was a proponent of gay marriage. Our professionalism (emotional patience) and humanity towards others should be a universal expectation, and those who genuinely express that humanity will have the credibility to add meaning and character to their positions. When politicians turn their well-spoken statements of opinions into personal attacks directed toward their opponents, they diminish the enthusiasm of their constituency to support their causes. I believe negative campaigning should be a strategy of the past. It diminishes any character credibility the candidate may be attempting to solidify. What does it say about society when we thrive on personal destruction of individuals? It demonstrates many would rather spend time on ridicule then contribute to the betterment of themselves and their community. This ubiquitous destructive attitude is promulgated throughout much of society as a way to distract us from our own responsibilities, and accountability for our own actions.

An attribute of the human race should be the capability to be mutually respectful of others; and display a professional tolerance for others and their differing viewpoints. There will never be a universal acceptance of every opposing opinion but hopefully there will be a progressive understanding that insolent behavior and personal ridicule directed to those we disagree with does nothing to contribute in a positive way to the world around us. Three behavior tools to assist in maintaining a level of professionalism needed to contend with disagreements are active listening, analytical evaluation and amiable response. Active Listening is the ability to consciously listen to another’s viewpoint without garnering an opposing position based on an emotional stimulus of the viewpoint being presented. Analytical Evaluation is the process of breaking down the facts of the position being taken to accurately formulate a credible response. Amiable Response is the ability to maintain a high standard of decorum and respond respectfully even in the mist of an emotional topic being addressed. When practiced respectfully, tolerance provides civility within a diversely opinionated society. When tolerance becomes an excuse for abuse and ridicule of others it destroys the fabric of mutual respect and social integrity. Let us all display a level of respectful tolerance while standing firm to the issues, beliefs, opinions and core values we hold true.



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