It’s really hard to go on social media without witnessing someone getting offended. If you spend any time on social media at all, you’ve seen this. A brave soul will post an unpopular opinion or comment online. Someone else will respond. And then a hundred other people respond and all of a sudden a simple opinion turns into a political debate and everyone gets worked up. We often try to stay away from these situations.
The two most common words I hear tossed around in these conversations are tolerance and acceptance. As someone who holds the unpopular opinion for almost every political/social issue in the world, I come across these terms all the time.
After years of scrolling through social media, taking part in political debates with friends, family and strangers, voicing my unpopular opinion, polishing my arguments and being attacked for disagreeing with the popular opinion on some of our country’s hottest topics, I’ve decided that the world needs a short 101 course on the difference between tolerance and acceptance.
Let’s start with some basic definitions from the Oxford English Dictionary.
Acceptance: Belief in or agreement with an idea, theory, statement, etc.
Tolerance: The action or practice of tolerating; toleration; the disposition to be patient with or indulgent to the opinions or practices of others.
I, as a person with many opinions that stem from my own personal and religious views, beliefs and values, am under no obligation to accept anything that I don’t believe in. Accepting, like the definition tells us, is the “agreement with an idea, theory, statement, etc.” and I am not going to consent to something I don’t think is right. I really don’t have to. I can, on the other hand, be tolerant. I’m willing to tolerate all sorts of opinions. I’m willing to tolerate all sorts of actions and lifestyles and beliefs. I do this all day, everyday. But I don’t have to agree with them. Everyone has opinions and people are going to disagree.
The problem, though, is that mainstream media and the loudest, most vocal people on social media (shout out to Tumblr and Facebook) like to confuse acceptance and tolerance. The ubiquitous “they” preach tolerance but what they really would like is acceptance. This is understandable because everyone wants to be accepted; it’s a basic human desire. However, there are things in this world that I don’t agree with and conversely, there are people that I meet that don't agree with the things I believe. This is real life. People aren’t going to support or accept every decision you make. C’est la vie.
I am one of those people that voices unpopular opinions. I am tolerant but not accepting.
Does this make me a hater?
Does this make me a bigot?
Does this make me a crazy religious person?No. I can disagree with someone and still be friends with them. I can disagree with someone’s lifestyle and still love them. I am not disrespecting anyone’s existence by holding an opinion that doesn’t agree with theirs (in fact, if you call yourself tolerate and treat someone hateful, you are doing it wrong) and if you can have your opinion, I can have mine.