We hear all the time that we need to practice tolerance. We need to tolerate different races, religions, ethnicities, sexualities, and so on. While tolerance is a virtue and necessary for a peaceful society, we will not achieve true peace until we begin to preach acceptance. Tolerance promotes the fair treatment of an individual; it prevents discrimination and bigotry. Acceptance, though, goes further than tolerance.
When you tolerate something, you are saying you can put up with a certain behavior or certain viewpoint. Acceptance, on the other hand, means you welcome a certain behavior or viewpoint, even if it is different than your own. You can have tolerance without acceptance, but there is no acceptance without tolerance. You may be wondering why it is so important that we change our framework to preaching acceptance rather than tolerance. Why must we accept another’s views that are different from our own? Isn’t tolerance sufficient?
Tolerance is a good step, and a step that many people in our society still need to take, but the world we live in is filled with differences. There are cultural differences, religious differences, ethnic, national, and historical differences; there are racial differences, ideological differences, and the list goes on and on. Instead of saying "I can put up with this viewpoint or behavior or race that is different from my own” it is imperative that we begin to think “I will accept this viewpoint or behavior or race that is different than my own.” Some people may think if you accept someone else’s difference you are conforming to it. That is simply not the case.
We can accept that someone has a different view on something without conforming to these ideals. Accepting the fact that someone has a different outlook than you does not only promote peace, it promotes freethinking and the betterment of society. If we are able to accept that a person’s opinion is different from ours when we are challenged with a different idea, we are not only open to new perspectives, but we are able to strengthen our own convictions through discussion. This is an extremely important aspect of development and one that modern political philosophers have long advocated.
Next time you hear a politician or leader talk about tolerance, commend them, but push further. Preach the practice of acceptance. Do not stop at “I can put up with this” but try “I am welcome to new ideas, cultures, religions, etc.” By pushing for acceptance, we are pushing for a world that is open, a world that is free, and a world that lives in peace. Once we begin to accept that others have views we do not agree with and realize that that is okay, even good, we will begin to understand the true meaning of peace.
Kathryn Meggan Ust