What Happened to Tolerance and Acceptance?

Earlier in the year, I took some time off from Facebook. Deleted it from my phone and didn’t log on for a few months. It was a much-needed break. My newsfeed was filled with hatred, intolerance and bullying. People I never thought would behave this way descended into a pit of negativity. It wasn’t necessary.

I blame a lot of it on social media. People feel comfortable and emboldened behind their computer screen. Even though Facebook is not an anonymous platform, you aren’t face-to-face with someone and sometimes that is enough. Social media has allowed people to embrace and release their inner asshole and it really isn’t a good look.

I can apply this to any topic where people are dedicated and where there is a side they identify with. This could be politics. This could be religion. This could be veganism. This could be motherhood. This could be weight loss. This could be cats or dogs. Basically, when someone takes a side, they don’t tolerate any dissent or opposition.

Jean has been a Buddhist for the past 18 years. Many people (including acquaintances and strangers) don’t support her spiritual believes. She’s been told that she is going to hell and that she is following the wrong path. People have even changed the way they perceive and deal with her when they find out about her Buddhism. My question would be a simple one, “What does Jean’s spiritual/religious choice have to do with you?”

Seriously, how does someone else’s beliefs affect you? How does it change your life? How does it impact you directly? I’m guessing not much. My advice would be live and let live. There used to be a crazy concept called tolerance. It meant (and yes I’m using the past tense) a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward opinions, beliefs, and practices that differ from one's own. Hmmm, it doesn’t say anything about bigotry or bullying but as a society, it seems to me that we’ve fallen far down that scary rabbit hole.

I remember what my mom said, “Don’t talk about religion or politics in polite conversation.” Sorry, mom. I’ve touched on religion, might as well touch (and lightly touch) on politics. While I might feature a guest or two that discuss faith and spirituality but I will never, ever, never ever, bring politics on the podcast.

What I will say is that I am a registered independent (you can do that in North Carolina). I vote for Democrats and I vote for Republicans. As such, I have Facebook friends of all political persuasions. This was a major reason I bailed on Facebook. The intolerance, the narrow-mindedness and the fanaticism was just too much. And it came from both sides.

Not everyone sees things as you do. We all have different experiences and see through different prisms. Heck, siblings that grown up in the same house often have varying views. I wish we could allow people to have their own preferences, likes and dislikes.

The thing is at the heart of it all, we are all people. We all blood and can take a transfusion from a Baptist, a Buddhist, a Republican, a Democrat or anyone else. We all experience and grieve a loss. If we put a room full of women together of various incomes and ethnicities, all of us can relate to menstrual cramps, wearing something uncomfortable because it looks good, and those of us who wear bras can talk about that feeling of relief/ecstasy/happiness that happens when you take the bra off. I’m sure men have their own commonalities.

When encountering people who hold different views from you, remember the words of Elsa from Frozen, “Let It Go.” Allow other people to be themselves, just like you want other people to let you be yourself. Accept the fact that different people have lived different lives, had different experiences and see things differently from you … and that is okay!

My father once sarcastically said “The world will be a better place if everyone thought like you.” I’ve come to realize that I need (we all need) people who have different talents, passions, ideas and perspectives. It is actually a good thing.

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