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The art of practice of tolerance

Updated on December 24, 2015

Generally speaking, tolerance has been defined as a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward those, whose opinions, beliefs, practices, racial or ethnic origins, etc., differ from one's own. In other words, it means freedom from bigotry of any kind. Tolerance is an attitude of mind that means non-judgmental acceptance of different beliefs and lifestyles.

Since childhood, we have been hearing and using the word tolerance everyday in many contexts. We have also used it unconsciously many a time even out of any context with different connotations. It appears that the trait of tolerance has been attached great importance by all as this forms the foundation, on which the edifice of society rests. A social structure will crumble down into rubbles where people don’t practice tolerance.

No one can belittle the value of tolerance in our personal, family, professional, national and international relations. The practice of tolerance has to be done in a situation considering it from a wider perspective as its relevance may change circumstantially. As tolerance is practiced by individuals, its relevance also changes from situation to situation that an individual is forced to face. A change of its situational relevance doesn’t mean that the individual has changed one’s attitude of tolerance. It means that the individual attitude shows flexibility within the context of true meaning of tolerance.

The nexus of cause and effect of phenomena -

From an esoteric viewpoint, all phenomena that we see around us are based on the principle of cause and effect. Therefore, every situation is created by a cause, the result of which is that particular situation. For instance, a person driving a car on a highway is suddenly overtaken wrongly by a speeding truck; as a result the person narrowly escapes an accident. The person gets very upset and angry at the truck driver, whose negligence could have caused an accident. So, the reckless driving by the truck driver is the cause for the anger in the person, which is the effect. There may also be a cause for the reckless driving of the truck driver such as drunkenness or something else.

If we carefully reason out the cause underlying an effect resulting in a situation, we will not be affected by the situation dramatically. We will view the situation with more tolerance from a different perspective. In this instance, the car driver will take the situation more calmly without losing the temper and not affecting his or her own driving in turn. On the contrary, he or she will keep on driving mindfully to reach the destination.

In another instance, a wife has an argument with her husband, as a result of which her husband loses his temper and becomes violent. He gives his wife a beating. In fact, this happens often with her but she has been tolerating it because of reasons better known to her. Here also the principle of cause and effect is active as a definite cause has made her husband angry, resulting in an ugly situation as an effect. She has been tolerating such behavior from her husband so that the situation doesn’t go out of control. But, on the contrary, her tolerance is encouraging her husband to continue behaving so. Such a tolerance on the part of wife is of no use for her as it is merely a passive submissiveness.

Above two instances, in which tolerance is practiced, show that its practice must have a relevance to the situation otherwise tolerance loses its significance.

The criteria of practice of tolerance -

For the practice of tolerance, we should consider the following criteria before doing so unquestioningly:

  • We must first justify if it needs to be practiced in a situation.
  • If we find relevance or justification to practice tolerance, we should maintain commitment to our own position but should also view reflectively other’s position. To be tolerant of others we should maintain responsible opposition to them if required. Or else we will be prejudiced if our opposition is not responsible. Mostly prejudiced people cannot be tolerant. But if one wants, one cannot allow the prejudice to come into way of justification for the practice of tolerance.
  • People are, in fact, so much attached to their beliefs and values that they are unable to see perceptively other’s beliefs and values. People are very good at rationalizing, giving reasons for their beliefs and values to be good. This attitude makes them intolerant.
  • Tolerant people accept the beliefs and values of others and respond to them responsibly though they may be opposed to their own beliefs and values.
  • Making others understand amicably your beliefs and values promotes the practice of tolerance.
  • Making others understand that you also have self-esteem like all others will also promote the practice of tolerance.
  • The practice of tolerance is closely influenced by the state of mind of a person. If a person is in a calm and stable state of mind, one can understand whether to practice tolerance or not. If so, the person can reason out when and how long one has to do so.
  • The practice of tolerance is also largely influenced by emotionality. If one is emotionally involved in a situation, one cannot dispassionately understand how to practice tolerance in a particular situation.
  • A tolerant person believes that it is right to respect the other’s points of view but the person sets limits to this. In other words, the person will abstain from supporting other’s points of view if finds them offensive and unreasonable but will avoid causing unnecessary offence to others out of respect while disagreeing.

The actual practice -

The practice of tolerance is quite tricky because one needs to have a clear understanding of the complexity of a situation where it is required. This needs experience and proficiency. Moreover, one needs to have a stable state of mind to understand the complexity of the situation, since a person with emotional stability reacts proactively in most situations.

The practice of tolerance may need to be modified according to the changes occurring in a situation. For example, with reference to the above second instance, the wife will have to make changes in its practice since it is not possible for her to tolerate such a behavior of her husband for an indefinite time. She will have to take steps, which are consistent with her self-esteem as well as welfare of the family.

Besides, modifying its practice, the practice of tolerance will also change from relationship to relationship as well as within relationship. In the above situation, the wife will have to give considerable time and effort in order to change it so that it will positively help the relationship.

As with everything else, there is also a limit to the practice of tolerance. When it fails to yield any result, one will have to walk away from the situation but this should be done after considering it thoroughly from different viewpoints, as there is always likelihood for it to improve.

There are a few instances where it seems that tolerance has to be practiced with no end. So, in such situations, one should evaluate if it is done for the interests of all concerned. If so, the practice of tolerance should be continued since welfare of all others is more important than personal welfare. But such specific situations are rare involving special relationships where it needs to be practiced indefinitely.

The bottom line –

We all are well aware of the benefits of the practice of tolerance in life. If we can understand the nexus of cause and effects underlying every situation, it will become easier for us to practice tolerance. But still its practice changes from situation to situation as well as within a situation from time to time. Further, every individual will judge a situation from his or her perspective, so the relevance of practice of tolerance varies from person to person even in the same situation. But it cannot be denied that the practice of tolerance contributes to strengthen the very foundation of the society. And, therefore, no one can belittle its significance in maintaining harmonious relationships with all in life.


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    • Dr Pran Rangan profile image

      Dr Pran Rangan 23 months ago from Kanpur (UP), India

      Thanks Denise for appreciating my hub and understanding what I want to convey.

      Thanks Dana for nice comments. I agree that it is really not so easy to practice tolerance. While practicing it, sometimes we overlook our needs, desires and feelings, and in turn hurt ourselves.

    • Dana Tate profile image

      Dana Tate 23 months ago from LOS ANGELES

      Tolerance is definitely hard and is something we must practice. Great hub.

    • denise.w.anderson profile image

      Denise W Anderson 23 months ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      I am glad that you brought up the difference between the wise practice of tolerance and the unwise allowing of others to take advantage of us. Not everyone understands this, and we often are accused of being intolerant when we are simply standing up for our own needs.

    • Dr Pran Rangan profile image

      Dr Pran Rangan 23 months ago from Kanpur (UP), India

      Thanks for your supportive comments.

    • emge profile image

      Madan 23 months ago from Abu Dhabi

      Interesting hub. You have put forward an intelkectual discussion