Recently in a religious studies class for Sikhism, our teacher explained the idea of tolerance vs. love. In Sikhism, love for all human beings in stressed as opposed to tolerance. I realized that many of us use the word tolerance to promote equality and other social justice aspects of society, however, tolerance is simply NOT the right word.
Today, in American society, while combating hate crimes and all discrimination, we tell people to be tolerant. We use that word in conversations, essays, Facebook posts, and newspapers. But we all fail to realize that in reality, we don't want tolerance--we want LOVE for all of humanity equally.
If you simply google the term "tolerance" here's what you get: the ability or willingness to tolerate something, in particular, the existence of opinions or behavior that one does not necessarily agree with. I would like to place the emphasis on "to tolerate something" which translates to "having to deal with."
When we as a society say that we should be tolerant of each other, we mean that we should deal with each other. Specifically, we should "deal" with each other's customs, traditions, diversity, and identity as opposed to loving it and embracing it. However, that's not what anyone wants. The "ultimate goal" for humanity as many propose it that we wish for everyone to be respectful and love each other, resulting in a peaceful society.
Although the idea of respect can be present when being tolerant, a shield stands between you and the other---a shield of "burden." Ultimately, by dealing with someone else you are burdened by what they have to offer, so you only "deal" with it and don't push further to understand why a certain tradition exists, or how to respectfully be apart of it, etc.
We slap on the word "tolerance" to anything we can use to promote social justice, but to my dear activists, that's simply not the right word. To put it in perspective: you're giving Christmas cards to all your teachers and you know your teacher who is Muslim doesn't celebrate Christmas, so you just don't bother to give her one. That's tolerance. However, if you had searched online what your teacher practices around this season, you would get them a card signifying that holiday or you would give them a card that said "happy new years!" -- that is love and respect and appreciation. That is what we want from each other.
Tolerance is a step in the right direction because it promotes the idea that "I don't like you but I respect you." That's the beginning. Next would be to emphasize, "I will try to like you and understand you." Humans shouldn't be "tolerating" one another especially based on religion, race, creed, caste, sex, or gender. You tolerate your annoying friends, or you tolerate when someone talks forever, or you tolerate it when someone gives you a gift and you don't like it. But you do NOT "tolerate" other humans because of who they are. It's ridiculous.
We need a revival of love, acceptance, and appreciation in society. We need to start using these words with brighter and more inclusive connotations to start to describe how we want society to really be. Given the current political events, it is important for people to understand these concepts and not just "tolerance" in order to be an effective voice in social justice activism.
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