Tolerance Breeds More Hate

It’s been a tough few weeks in the U.S. for relationship building.  I’ve been stunned into silence at much of the hateful rhetoric I hear about in communities across the nation.  Though it’s often said, “it’s a small world,” in many ways, people are worlds apart. We hail from different backgrounds, experiences, cultures, perspectives. Sometimes our stance on any given topic is so firm, we cannot see, let alone acknowledge, that there might be another way.

In those moments, we might express our views in darkened rooms with other, like-minded people, assuming all others (well, all others who “matter”) share our worldview and agree with us completely. Another approach is to take to social media, silently shouting our one-sided perspective into the Twitter-sphere or on Facebook and effectively shutting out others’ commentary. In yet other cases, we may march in the streets, brandishing banners and signs and a megaphone to ensure those outside our purview get the message. In those cases, in addition to wishing to be heard, we may seek to change minds, bring others to our side or, at least, be tolerated. Unfortunately, as one of my wisest, bravest friends recently pointed out, all tolerance does is breed more hate.

It turns out, if we merely tolerate one another, we do nothing to fill the gaps or build bridges to one another.  In fact, the chasm between us grows wider and, in many cases, seem to lead to a point of no return.  Violence ensues.  Hatred prevails.  It’s unseemly.  It’s unacceptable.  It’s so sad.

Instead of tolerance, why not seek awareness, understanding, appreciation, respect?  Instead of shouting into the void, how about reaching out, listening, bringing others along, allowing them in?  Changing minds is unnecessary, but educating and learning from one another makes us all better off.

In your community, are you witnessing or experiencing ways in which people of differing backgrounds or perspectives are reaching out to and educating one another?  What have you seen that worked?  What are you yourself doing to listen more, learn more, educate more?  The CLC Community would value your insight and ideas.  Please take a moment to comment at  Happy Networking!

8 thoughts to “Tolerance Breeds More Hate”

  1. Thank you for that piece.
    When I look around, I feel we have tried ‘almost’ everything else to merely coexist on this beautiful planet.
    About 3 years ago I agreed to join a national interfaith group called ‘The Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom’, a group of Muslim and Jewish women coming together once a month in each others houses and getting to know one another. We all reached out because we felt the need to connect, to listen and to appreciate the other. We may not always agree with everything but at least we have built a bridge to the other side and feel comfortable walking over to our new friends.

    Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.
    J Mohammad RUMI – Persian poet.

    1. Thank you so much for commenting, Samira. I admire you and the women of Salaam Shalom for proactively building bridges. Such important work in these uncertain times.

  2. When I was both the Impact Coordinator, and later the Counselor for 2 different school systems, the annual week set aside each year as “Tolerance Week” was implemented to promote a better relationship amongst students who were of different ethnicities, race, genders, sexual orientations, economic status, and religions. I never understood why the program’s founders named it “Tolerance Week.” Rather than teach students to “tolerate” each other why not the more inclusive, didactic, and universal concept of “Acceptance Week?” All I could do was to encourage other students, faculty, and staff to go beyond the act of tolerance. I loved your article.

  3. Yes, these are strange times. Today at church our warden said good morning and hug me. that’s all. At work, a coworker talks to me about his point of view and I give my own. At home is my husband being republican and I a democrat, agree that our current president is waking up a the dormant monsters of intolerance and hate. My sons, and our extended family, together as always. Love doesn’t know differences or barriers.

  4. Light Divine,

    Guide us along the path of life so that we may experience the sacred love and divine beauty this life has to offer. Open our eyes so that we see and honour the dignity of difference. Remembering people who are not like us, are still people-like us.

    May the light shine bright enough in all living beings that we do not become overwhelmed by the enormity of the world’s sorrow. Let us respond to this charge set forth that we live justly, now. Love kindness, now. Walk humbly, now; as we discern the path we take. For we know we are not duty-bound to complete the work set forth, but neither are we free to forsake it.

    Illuminate the road ahead so that we know what is right, and grant us both the bravery to pursue it and grace to achieve it.

    May it be so.

    (Adapted by from Micah 6:8 and Pirkei Avot 2:16).

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