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Tolerating Society's Differences: Is It Possible to Be Accepting of Others Without Understanding Them?

Updated on January 18, 2018
heather92383 profile image

Heather has a Bachelor's Degree in English from Moravian College and has been freelance writing for more than 12 years.

Lady Gaga on the red carpet.
Lady Gaga on the red carpet.
Is a picture really worth a thousand words?
Is a picture really worth a thousand words?
Embracing others despite their differences.
Embracing others despite their differences.

What is tolerance? Okay, the dictionary stated that it meant to have "a fair and unbiased opinion" towards different cultures, viewpoints, religions and other topics that would often cause arguments. Beyond that somewhat vague definition, tolerance can be more than just an objective attitude towards who should be the next President or whether Gay marriage should be legalized in all 50 states. It's a state of mind that allowed you to see all viewpoints of a subject without getting upset of whether your opinion was right or wrong. Your uncle might believe that Mitt Romney should be the next President, but you might have a very different idea in mind. It's about perspective and looking at each viewpoint without forcing the other person to change their mind. If its' possible, they have to do it on their own timetable, not yours.

In terms of everyday reality, tolerance is more than accepting that today's society is much more complicated than it was 20 or 30 years ago. It's quite apparent that 2012 is a lot more complicated than the 1980s or even the 1990s. What hasn't changed is that people still don't understand about what is going on around them. The biggest issue that people tend to overlook is that society at large can't be as easily labeled as different cliques in High School with the jocks and the nerds at opposing tables. Sure, Democrats and Republicans are labeled based on their voting preferences, but the rest of the society isn't as cut and dry as that.

Here are three suggestions to follow to allow you to understand the meaning of tolerance or at least see things from a different perspective. Read on to see if you agree or disagree.

Individuality isn't a Bad Thing

Marching to the Beat of a Different Drummer- It's okay to not always blending in with the crowd. Standing out can be a good thing, even when it comes across as bizarre to the rest of the world. It's better to have tried something and failed rather than just sticking to the status quo everyday. That's why the saying,"familiarity breeds contempt." If everyone stayed inside the lines, Hollywood would be a much less interesting place to watch your favorite celebrities doing just that.

When it comes to being unique, Lady Gaga is a celebrity who definitely stands out in a crowd. She actually arrived at an awards show inside an egg. Despite her shocking fashion choices, Gaga has demonstrated in interviews that her main goal for going over the top is to prove that it's possible for everyone to be who they are no matter what critics say. People should follow Gaga's sage advice and take more risks in their lives. If you want to shave your head or dye it Purple, go for it if you truly feel the need to. If you prefer to date a man or a woman, follow your heart. If you want to become a Scientologist, research it more before you seek out the nearest church. Throwing caution to the wind doesn't mean you should overlook reality. You should know whether changing your religion is something you need to do for now or for good. It's a serious matter that shouldn't be taken lightly. Like all things in life, mistakes can happen. It's likely that even Lady Gaga has made a choice or two that she has regretted; not that she'll ever publicly admit it.

Interpretation is Key

Learning to Read Between the Lines- Do you understand why some people are opposed to overall equality in society? Is this based on age, background or something greater? Honestly, it's hard to say why some are more accepting of change while others want to avoid it all costs. The best way to explain this major difference that has fractured many families would be examine the background of a particular family. If you take a closer look at any family that might be perfect on the outside, you will start to see the cracks in the foundation as you go behind closed doors.

A prime example would be a family where the brother grew to accept that society has changed a lot since he was a teenager. Sure, he's in his early sixties and has an often conservative view on life, but he also respects that people should choose to live life however and with whoever they want. His sister, on the other hand, has very different views on how society should be run. These views were grinded into her by a spouse with a controversial idealism that tended to get him into trouble. Upon his passing, she picked up fully where he left off and let everyone know where she stood on various subjects. Unfortunately, no one has been able to get through to her that life can always be up to her "standards." She could either move to a deserted island or learn to accept the things that she can't change. In order to avoid moving to an island, learn to see all sides of a particular argument before picking a side. Once you pick one, don't openly broadcast unless you have to. Avoid any arguing at family gatherings for as long as possible.

Facts and Figures

Back Up Your Opinion- When a defense lawyer goes to trial, the greatest weapon to have in their arsenal to prove their client's innocence is the cold hard truth in the form of physical evidence. Is there a security tape that shows the grieving widow doing something questionable with another man? What if there was more to the story beyond that incriminating moment? Watch another 15 seconds to see the widow slap her potential lover away in rejection. This moment could reveal another possible suspect if you're willing to look past the initial of the tape's opening moments. Sometimes facts and foolproof documentation is needed to prove someone's point. If you don't have either of them, it's time to come up with a new ideal or a better tact to express your opinions. Being argumentative just for the sake of it is not a good idea for anyone involved; unless you have the perfect platform to express your views. You just have to have something to back them up for your sake and for those listening to you ramble on about the latest political blunder by any number of politicians.

The same idea can be said about life in general, because it's never a good idea to rush judgment about anyone whether they're gay, Muslim or a Scientologist. Gather all of the facts and look at them closely before making an informed decision, especially if you're on a jury eager to convict a possibly wrongfullly accused defendant. The American Justice System will thank you with whatever decision you choose to make.

In the end, tolerance is something that needs to be learned in order to fully grasp the overwhelming concept. It needs to be taught at an early age, but not everyone is lucky enough to be educated about tolerance when they're younger. Luckily, it's never too late to learn how to accept your peers and your elders in a different light. All that's needed to do is forget the past and focus on the future. That way you have a fresh new outlook on life and how to make clearer decisions. Something that everyone should do when they're ready to do so.


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    • johnwindbell profile image


      7 years ago from - the land of beards and buggies

      OOPS, almost had a political comment there. Wouldn't want that. It makes them think they are important. We are all on this spaceship together, whatever the 'dick' in the oval office says or does.

    • kuzimoto profile image


      7 years ago from Dayton Ohio

      I think your insight to Tolerance is right on. I do believe that we all have to be accepting of others. Even our President had to be tolerant to a segment of society that no one wants to publicly endorse; some in our black community has called him out for selling out, but it was a necessary task. If our President can show tolerance, we all can. I do not believe an acceptance of a specific idea is an endorsement for said idea. If one in my immediate family told me he/she was bi-sexual, i would have to accept them, and thats what Obama is saying. Making a stand is a beautiful thing.


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