In layman’s terms, tolerance is putting up with something undesirable. Now consider that tolerance might conceivably be current society’s most highly-esteemed value. Think about that. People of sound reason should ask, “Why tolerance?”
The meaning of tolerance today is not what it always was. Today, it has more of a connotation of appreciation and embrace. What does it appreciate? Anything. What does it embrace? Everything. People of faith know that’s not entirely accurate, though. Those who most strongly espouse the modern notion of tolerance are prone to be quite intolerant of those who hold to the original meaning of the term.
Take their attitude toward Christians, for instance. Christians work hard to eradicate social evils such as abortion, euthanasia, and so-called gay marriage, while simultaneously admitting that as long as this fallen world exists, evil of every kind will continue. When certain evils are out of one’s personal control, a Christian tolerates them, but never accepts or embraces them. They neither could nor should. This position, held by the vast majority of people who ever lived, is found intolerable by so many today. Modern “tolerators” even go so far as to call people like the Christians described above as ignorant, backward bigots. Ironic. Christians may be intolerant of actions, but those who espouse modern tolerance are actually intolerant of and attack persons.
So what can you and I do in the face of what can only be described as something sinister? I have a suggestion.
How might that look? On the one hand, we have traditional tolerance… a necessary evil. On the other hand, we have the modern notion that’s more in line with acceptance and approval. A third way is love. Who could argue that love isn’t better than tolerance? Tolerance is concerned only with actions. Love, however, is concerned with persons. People are beings, and actions are doings. Being is so much more important than doing.
In order to speak of love and what it means to love rather than tolerate, we need to define love. Love is wanting the greatest good for the other. What’s the greatest good? The greatest good is perfect and everlasting happiness. People of faith know that this only exists in Heaven, so to keep it simple, the greatest good one could want for another is Heaven.
How can we love someone to Heaven? First, we have to focus on persons rather than actions. We, like Jesus, have to accompany all people, for each of us is on a journey, and Jesus draws us all to Himself. Second, we must be walking in the truth ourselves. That doesn’t mean perfection, though we’re called to it. It doesn’t mean sinlessness, though we’re called to that too. It means living with humility, which is to say we have an honest view of ourselves. We need to see ourselves as we really are, warts and all. We simultaneously need to keep in mind how deeply God love us in spite of our faults. Only then can we begin to walk with others in the way I mean.
Are you with me? Let’s espouse love while walking in the truth. It’s so much better than tolerance.
Further reading: This piece by Brandon Vogt, covering Venerable Fulton Sheen’s thoughts on tolerance, is simply outstanding.