None of us are perfect. We all need tolerance from others. However, although we may love someone, we do not need to be a party to their choices or behaviors that give us pause. We can and should stand up for what we believe, even at the risk of standing alone.
But how do we understand the difference between being kind and being permissive? How do we know that we need to stop shrugging off intolerance and instead stand our ground? How do we express our convictions without becoming unkind or judgmental?
Family advocate, Boyd Packer states that all virtues, when exaggerated, transform into vices. This is even true of tolerance. When we relax our principles too much, our families can end up in situations that are against our moral code, making us feel uncomfortable, anxious and even violated. On the other hand, when we refuse to exercise tolerance, we become abrasive, judgmental and uncharitable.
Tolerance doesn’t mean putting aside mercy, forgiveness or open-mindedness. Tolerance reconciles disagreement with charity. A quote attributed to Aristotle states “it is a mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” Let prayer, empathy and your conscience guide you to that appropriate middle ground.
Know your values and where they come from
If your convictions stem from bitterness, a dogma that you take for granted or simply following the crowd, it’s time to take a long hard look at them. Our past experiences ought to guide us to have greater empathy as well as a firmer sense of right and wrong.
On the other hand, remember there is nothing wrong with having convictions. Increasingly, it seems that principled living is regarded as intolerant. There is such a thing as right and wrong, but asserting that fact requires tact, patience, and above all, charity.
Make it about love
We can still love people when we disagree with their choices. Keeping grounded on that fact helps us to create distance between our feelings and our actions. Tolerance lives in that space in between. Being kind to someone you don’t see eye-to-eye with isn’t being fake; it’s being mature. So be gentle when you disagree. Furthermore, don’t undermine your charitable impulses by making up people’s stories for them. If you don’t know why someone has the opinions they do, be content with not knowing instead of inventing something that justifies your point of view. The people you care about need you to support and defend them, not criticize.
When discussing an issue you feel strongly about, avoid emotionally charged tactics, such as metaphors that suggest any sort of dehumanization. Instead, you might try explaining the unique benefits of your chosen point of view. Naturally, we want to be kind in the delivery of our disagreement. There is no place for coldness, name-calling or condescension in our rhetoric. Instead, we ought to ask questions so that we can understand the other side and look at the big picture.
In her novel Mansfield Park, Jane Austen states, “We have all a better guide in ourselves, if we would attend to it, than any other person can be.” Each person has a conscience, and with it comes a sense of which behaviors are hurtful and destructive, either to themselves or to others. Even things that only seem to concern one person still affect families and society. Therefore, it is essential that we understand the difference between being merciful and turning a blind eye to dangerous behaviors that affect our loved ones and homes.