The Secret to Social Harmony Lies in Tolerance vs. Acceptance

Nearly everyone in our society today has more than likely received a block of instruction on Tolerance.  Typically having to do with ethnic diversity, the concept of promoting tolerance in social settings has garnered tremendous support.  Whether its in the workplace, at a school, or even in the armed forces, people interacting in groups are being encouraged to tolerate diversity in one another.  However, this seemingly positive practice has many negative connotations, and is an insufficient means by which to ensure social harmony.

How can a person be truly and faithfully judged?  One cannot judge others by appearance, as people are almost always more than what they seem to be.  One cannot judge people based on what they say, because people often say things they do not mean.  People cannot be faithfully judged by their actions, as people often do things without thinking them through.  Again, how can a person be faithfully judged?  Judge a person by their character, their integrity.

A person’s faithfulness to themselves and others, their drives and motivations are what make them who they are.

Webster’s dictionary says that to tolerate is “to bear, or put up with ( someone or something not especially liked).”  This implies that to tolerate something, you are allowing it to exist despite disapproving of it’s nature.  While this is certainly preferable to an aggressive, intolerant attitude, the people of the twenty-first century should aspire to achieve a more progressive way of thinking.  To that end, the tolerance initiative should be adapted and transformed into an entity that promotes acceptance instead.

While this may seem like a simple case of semantic nitpicking, the ideas of tolerance and acceptance have an important difference.  When in acceptance of something, Webster’s says one “receives it favorably, with approval.”  So while someone can tolerate an object of hatred, to accept it would be far nobler.  By merely tolerating something, without conceding that that thing has a right to be different, deep rooted hatred will never be fully abolished.

It would be foolish to suggest that we all adopt the same values and beliefs.  Differences of opinion are a normal, important part of society.  The point to be made is that just because someone has an opinion or belief that differs from your own, does not mean they are wrong.  Everyone has the right to believe what they will, and rather than tolerating adversity while seeking homogeny, we should accept people for who they are.  It is our differences from one another that constitute humanities potential.  Striving to make everyone think the same way would ultimately cause disastrous repercussions.  It is only through the act of accepting that which is different, and approving of diversity instead of merely ‘allowing’ it, that the human race can move forward into a new age of understanding.

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