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
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.
In the aftermath of Susan Boyle’s heart rendering rendition of the song “I Dreamed a Dream” from Les Miserables, on “Britain’s Got Talent”, I was left not only inspired, but saddened. Although the multi-million hits you tube video is an inspiration, it is also a reflection of how far as a global community we have NOT come in overcoming our pre-judgment of others; and the stereotypes directed towards others in what we assume their capability of achievement may be based on appearance. It demonstrates continued predominance of individuals judging the “book by its cover”, and validates this destructive social force is alive and flourishing in all parts of the world. Everyday we witness a diversity of world hatred towards individuals, groups, religions, cultures and nations. Will it ever stop?
As a society, have we reached a level of openness and non-judgment towards those around us that is equitable? How far have we come in regard to the stereotypes and prejudices that we place on others based on appearance and general body language? These are two questions that should be discussed frequently with our children, and be a continued recognition in our own lives to lessen the stereotypical influences presented via many forms of media and technology. We are continually challenged with deciphering through false misconceptions of what it takes, and means, to be successful. How many reality shows can we name to illustrate that point? One definition of discrimination is, “the ability to discern what is of high quality; good judgment or taste”. How does one achieve that, by appearance, race, creed, color, gender, sexual orientation, or age? I would hope we have made strides in regard to judging others by their character not the color of their skin, as Martin Luther King, Jr. so poignantly shared in his “I Have a Dream” speech 46 years ago. Stereotype is defined as, “a widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing.” It is quite apparent this continues to be a prevalent behavior by many on a daily basis. When we walk down the street and notice someone who may appear physically different, be from somewhere else, or may dress as though they are part of a different faith or culture, and discern a conclusion of that person’s character, how incredibly naïve and ignorant is that? We have all placed preconceived notions of what an individual may be based on impressions other than ones character. It is diligent awareness of this deteriorating thought process that promotes a greater respect towards those we perceive as being different than ourselves.
One of the major themes within my “No Excuse!” seminar training sessions is the importance of treating our fellow man and woman with dignity and respect. Over the years of growing as a person, and challenging myself to further learn and understand life, I have discovered four areas that can assist all of us in decreasing our rapid judgment and stereotyping of others. I share with you the four E’s., Education, Empathy, Experience and Equality. Educating ourselves in the knowledge of social and cultural history provides a foundation of understanding on a macro scale of people and their societies. I find it invigorating to learn about the advancements of civilizations and their contributions to world science, language and economics to name a few. It generates an appreciation for where we come from. Empathy, “the ability to understand and share the feelings of others”, is essential to recognizing humility in ourselves, and capabilities in others. Experience validates education and fosters empathy. What is it like to walk in the shoes of those we stereotype, or discriminate against? What does it feel like to have nothing materialistically, to be physically different, appear different, or feel out of place? Although some may never experience prejudice or discrimination, to participate in the lives of those who have heightens or own insight and appreciation for those who are the victims of directed unfairness. Equality is being aware, and accepting, that we may have different talents, skills, and beliefs, but we are all equally part of humanity. Enjoy the benefits of being open-minded to the goodness of others on the inside, and understand we are all part of a bigger world than ourselves. It is an appreciation that is beneficial to all.