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Is tolerance a good thing?

Updated on January 14, 2011


"You get what you tolerate."

Promotion of "tolerance" as a goal or a virtue is like promoting blind acceptance. God loves every person, but he does not tolerate any sin.

I can accept someone into my house, but I will insist that he leave his shoes that are covered in mud (or worse) outside.

There is a proper value and good use for just about everything. Tolerance is one of those things that cannot be labeled as strictly a good thing or strictly a bad thing. It is really amazing how people will latch on to something that sounds like it is an admirable principle because of isolated instances when it is good or because someone states that it is good because of partially logical conclusion. (Partially logical is illogical, by the way.) It is like a snowball effect. The concept becomes more and more popular from repetition and soon there are a very large number of people who are emotionally attached to a completely ignorant notion.

Fire can be a very good thing and fire can be a very bad thing. Since fire causes large amounts of damage to personal property, kills and injures man and animals, and can destroy millions of acres of land, one might say that fire is a very bad thing and should be banned. On the other hand, fire is used to cook our food, heat our homes, refine metals, provide light in the dark, provide power and many other things that we value a great deal. But we cannot say that fire is strictly a good thing or strictly a bad thing.

The Bible provides many powerful positive guidelines for man to utilize in fulfilling his purposes on this earth. It also lists many “things” that we should hate, avoid, not do and even flee from. Please let me emphasize that I and the Bible said "things" not persons. The purpose of man (why God made all of us) is centered on relationships. The focus is to have good relationships. There is also the focus to not end relationships, but to repair and reconcile relationships. God knows that our sinful selfishness and the actions, words and attitudes that are tied to that selfishness are not healthy for the maintenance and growth of relationships. He gave us a rather large book to help us understand this with His understanding. It is possible to accept a person without endorsing his or her bad behaviors. The battle should always be to remove the things that will not produce a good and healthy relationship not dissolve the relationship. However, one of those self-centered attitudes that keeps us from fully understanding and often times ignoring or simply forgetting what He told us is PRIDE. We think we are just as smart or smarter than God, which is about the dumbest thing we can ever think. We start leaning on our own understanding.

The guidelines provide us with a host of actions, words and attitudes that we should not tolerate. That means we should not join in, condone, or contribute to by inaction.

This does not mean to not accept people. We do not have to condone their actions to be accepting of them. It would however be foolishness to accept behavior that is harmful to a relationship in an effort to improve a relationship. If a man tells you that pouring gasoline on your burning house will help put it out, you would not do it. That is blatantly obvious. But many of the current trends tied to tolerance are based on this same type of advice. It however is not so obvious, and it is painted with rhetoric that is seeking a good outcome but will fall short because it will eventually lead to destruction and degradation of the relationship.

The “Serenity Prayer” says, “God, grant us the...

Serenity to accept things we cannot change,

Courage to change the things we can, and the

Wisdom to know the difference

Patience for the things that take time

Appreciation for all that we have, and

Tolerance for those with different struggles

Freedom to live beyond the limitations of our past ways, the

Ability to feel your love for us and our love for each other and the

Strength to get up and try again even when we feel it is hopeless.

Please note that the “tolerance” requested in this prayer is not for people who have different philosophies, ideals, opinions, desires, views, positions, principles, thoughts, morals, creeds, politics, orientations, inclinations, behaviors, actions, attitudes, understanding, or goals. We are to be tolerant of those who are "struggling" with those different things. The goal then remains a good relationship, not one based upon acceptance of unhealthy, bad and harmful things which will have an undesirable outcome.


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    • ChilliWilly profile image

      ChilliWilly 7 years ago from Kaunas, Lithuania

      Very interesting ideas.

    • profile image

      Tall Paul 7 years ago

      This is a great post! Being the "good" kind of tolerant doesn't mean to approve or agree with other people. Tolerance can be a very bad thing when it extends to acceptance, especially of actions!

    • swb78 profile image

      Scott Biddulph 7 years ago from Gainesville Georgia

      Good hub, welcome!

    • profile image

      Janis 7 years ago

      Sounds like a sermon. Are you sure you are in your right calling? :D