Give the gift of tolerance this Christmas
Tolerance… Merriam Webster’s definition is:
“Sympathy or indulgence for beliefs or practices differing from or conflicting with one’s own; the act of
I have been thinking a lot about tolerance lately. Our society seems to be lacking this virtue these days.
From the #Black Lives Matter movement to our political and religious landscapes, our world seems to be
in short supply of tolerance.
The Virtues Project describes tolerance in this way. “Tolerance helps us to accept differences and frees
us from being judgmental. It is recognizing that all people have feelings, needs, hopes and dreams.
Tolerance is an appreciation for diversity, whether of culture or temperament. It leads to unity. It is
being patient and forgiving when others make mistakes, while calling on discernment to know when to
stand up for justice. Tolerance is accepting things that we wish were different with humor and grace. It
allows us to embrace the pain as well as the joys of life.”
Human beings are typically judgmental. We assess people we meet before they even speak. What are
they wearing? Are they neatly groomed? Are their clothes clean and neat or dirty and rumpled? What
color is their skin?
And when they start to speak, we judge them based on their language, their accent, their opinions. We
place them into categories, often stereotypes. And we sometimes forget that humans are stillindividuals. In other words, not all Catholics are the same. Not all Jewish people are the same. Not all
Native Americans are the same. Not all immigrants are the same. Not all people from India are the
same. Not all Republicans are the same, and likewise, not all Democrats are the same. I could go on and
on, but I believe you get the picture.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want all people to be the same. I love diversity! I love hearing other opinions and points of view. It helps me grow! I learn to articulate my opinions better. It sometimes
changes my opinions. My best conversations with friends are when we have different opinions and
listen respectfully to each other. We don’t have to convert one another to our opinion. We don’t even
have to agree. We can agree to disagree, respectfully. In fact, Carl Jung said, “everything that irritates us
about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.” The more we listen to people who think
differently than ourselves, the more we develop ourselves and our opinions. We grow spiritually and
emotionally! And that makes the world a better place.
So, what does this all mean? I believe our world could use a little more tolerance. And I believe that we
each can do our part. How can we do this? The Virtues Project states that we can practice tolerance by:
Freeing ourselves from prejudice
Refraining from judging ourselves and others
Accepting what we cannot change
Balancing acceptance with justice
I urge you to give the gift of tolerance this Christmas. I won’t say there isn’t any cost. While it may not
cost money, you may have to swallow your pride. You may have to give up old opinions or stereotypes.
You may have to forgive someone else. You may have to stop judging. But, I promise you that you will
gain so much more and, in turn, the world will gain so much more.
About the author: Tanya
Tanya is a Milwaukee area professional who invests her free time in her parish and community, with special interests in youth and social justice. Since 2004, she has directed and/or been on the design team for the archdiocesan program Reach Out Reach In, an inner city mission program for teens. In addition she has lead youth and adult retreats both as a volunteer and professionally, and been a Confirmation catechist for 14 years. Not only does Tanya do community service and advocacy in her own community, she has also been traveling to Port au Prince, Haiti since 2009 to learn more about poverty in third world countries and to advocate for them here in the United States.