I always find it interesting when human beings confuse certain terms and use them interchangeably as if they were in fact synonyms. From a strictly literary point of view, this might very well be the case in many instances. But, at the truly valuable and important human level, this is not always the case.
Let’s take, for example, Tolerance and Acceptance.
Tolerance, as defined by the Oxford dictionary, is “the ability or willingness to tolerate—endure—the existence, occurrence, or practice of things, opinions or behavior that one dislikes or disagrees with, without interference, or with forbearance.”
Acceptance, as defined by the Oxford dictionary, is “the process or fact of being received as adequate, valid, or suitable.” It is also defined by the same dictionary as an “agreement with or belief in an idea or explanation.”
Focusing more on the human aspect of our existence, I find acceptance to be a more suitable word than tolerance; the ‘human aspect’ indicating the beliefs, dreams and actions of different people in a healthy society, just to name a couple.
For example, I find that it is healthier and more fulfilling to learn to accept that we are all people with different ideas and ways of doing things; different values and worldviews; different dreams and ways to go about making those dreams come true. To learn to accept that we are all different in the way we express ourselves, and the way we lead our lives; while also recognizing that deep down we are all the same, in the sense that we are all looking for the same exact thing: To live a happy and fulfilling life.
Saying that ‘we need to tolerate’ certain people and their uncommon way of leading their lives—or expressing beliefs, dreams and desires—is equivalent to saying to them, “I don’t like you and your way of being, but I will endure or suffer your presence resignedly.”
How unpleasant, isn’t it? It is certainly quite unappealing to hear someone saying things like that, and yet, that is exactly what the word ‘tolerance’ expresses.
A more open and welcoming approach is the one that says, “I might not understand everything you do or how you do it; I might not understand your beliefs and customs; but I am willing to accept that you and I are different, and that we both do things in different ways.”
Doesn’t this approach show kindness and respect instead of just resigned endurance?
When we learn, master and use the art of acceptance we open ourselves to a world of discovery and greater learning; a world of human interaction that allows us to enjoy the full range of the human experience available to us. Acceptance is a positive word that allows us to keep our minds and hearts open to fill them with new knowledge, experiences, people and circumstances that can only expand our lives.
Of course, we might not always be willing to accept all of a person’s beliefs and way of life as our own, but the simple act of embracing the fact that another person has different beliefs than us, and that it is perfectly okay for it to be so, opens us—all of us—to a better and richer world.
When we simply practice tolerance our world remains restricted to that which we just know, that which is familiar and comfortable, but the possibility of new knowledge and discoveries that would broaden our horizons and lives remains quite narrow.
Wishing you to go beyond tolerance and to embrace acceptance,
Adriana Adarve, Asheville, NC
About the Author: Adriana Adarve is the owner of Adarve Translations and is fluent in three languages (English, Spanish & French), as well as pluricultural, multi-cultural, plurilingual and multilingual.