Friday, February 29

Tolerance or Acceptance?

I often have discussions with friends about the important difference between tolerance and acceptance when it comes to relationships between people. Even though I am a proud Progressive, I can accept that there are people who disagree and even, dare I say, don't accept much less tolerate Progressive values.

Within the framework of democracy, tolerance is fundamentally built in with the Constitution's decree of "Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness"--but then there is the rule of law which says polygamy, adults having sexual relations with children, cannibalism, cold-blooded murder are not tolerated.

Wikipedia defines Toleration and Tolerance as "terms used within debates in areas of social, cultural and religious context, to describe attitudes and practices that prohibit discrimination against those whose practices or group memberships may be disapproved of by those in the majority." And this is a good step. It implies that with or without the rule of law, we should be able to be non-discriminatory toward others even if their views, religion, race, sexuality, differ from the majority .

However, while tolerance takes us further down the road, acceptance is the end game. If accept other people, it implies not only tolerate them, but actually make room for them in our own lives.
Wikipedia defines acceptance, in spirituality, mindfulness, and human psychology, as "the experience of a situation without an intention to change that situation."

In other words, I accept that choices other people make or are thrust upon them by biology are okay and am not threatened by them. Eventually, acceptance is subconscious, I do it without thinking about it, like stopping at a red light.

Clearly there is a lot of gray in this conversation. Where does tolerance stop and acceptance begin? Are there things that are universally intolerable (racism, sexism) or unacceptable (genocide, war)?

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