How to be Tolerant without being Intolerant

In the practice of tolerance, one's enemy is the best teacher.
- Dalai Lama
Stubborn always has excellent posts on the WoW community and steps towards making a better one.  They are always great to read because they highlight issues and offers solutions on how this can be amended or improved - which in my opinion are much more constructive than the usual whinge-about-what-happened-in-this-BG-or-LFR type posts.  His latest post is about tolerance, sparked by a conversation he saw on Twitter.

His indignation echoed my own for I also witnessed a similar episode a month or so ago.  Someone on Twitter lashed out at someone else for a misunderstanding resulting in name calling and unfollowing by the parties involved.  Both parties are people I follow and it was disappointing to see it played out in such a manner rather than in a more mature way.

I understand that sometimes people say things which may be offensive.  But sometimes it is from ignorance rather than a true malicious intent.  And it is in our own best interests to educate and encourage better behaviour so that person can go on to continue in the correct mind of thinking and hopefully influence others in the future.

For example, generalisations can be offensive.  However, we often use them in everyday language because that's how people around us talk and there is often some truth to those generalisations, but you also need to remember that just because the majority of people may be included in their generalisation, there are also a fair number who are not, and they resent being thought of in that demeaning manner.

There was a guild incident some years ago which showed just that.  A very young guild member, in his early teens made a comment which went something like:

"... or come around over and roll you for your car or your phone like a bunch of Lebs..."

Which our guild leader at the time, took great offence to, for he was Lebanese.  He yelled at the guildie, and was about to gkick him, but the other officers, including myself, intervened.  I spoke to that young guild member, and told him that what he had said was offensive to the guild leader, who was Lebanese, and he should think carefully about what he says because sometimes, people get upset by things that are said without thought.  The guildie was mortified and wanted to apologise straight away, and I said to him that he should do that, but he should also make sure he doesn't make those sorts of comments in guild again, because the rest of us will not always be on to intervene.  And after that, his behaviour was excellent, and he never said anything like that again.  He was essentially a good kid, but you can see that if he had been kicked from the guild, his impression of Lebanese people may have been perpetuated and he would continue making generalisations because he obviously hadn't met any nice, helpful, TOLERANT, Lebanese people.
Tolerance is giving to every other human being every right that you claim for yourself.

- Robert Green Ingersoll
What SHOULD you do if you see someone saying something you object to?  It's easy to get angry. However, the best decisions are never made in anger and the wisest words rarely said without considered thought, so you should always walk way from the keyboard/phone until you feel a bit rational again.  Yes, what they said was offensive.  Yes, they shouldn't be allowed to get away with it.  But though you may wish them the hurt and pain they caused you, what lesson would that teach?  And what if they refuse to be taught and continue to be turds?  Don't you wish then that you had just let rip and tell them what you thought of them?

Tolerance is another word for indifference. - W. Somerset Maugham

I think THIS quote above, the sentiment behind it, is what concerns people.  That being tolerant means accepting that's the way things are and doing nothing.  But, as Stubborn says, it's not.  You don't have to yell back at them and be intolerant of them in return - fighting fire with fire?  Well, you fight fire with water (or a fire extinguisher) and probably the best way to extinguish their fire is by letting THEM continue to be the idiot whilst you show yourself to be rational, reasonable and fair.  Stubborn phrased it very well:
From a historical point of view, this is what Jesus meant when he advocated turning the other cheek. In his historical context, that invited the aggressor to use his left hand in public, which would be a shameful act. It wasn’t advocating non-action, but advocating letting the other person make himself look bad through his actions, while you just keep popping back up. I’m not particularly religious one way or the other, but that’s a strategy I can get behind. 
In a study titled "Are close friends the enemy? Online social networks, esteem and self control", a series of 5 experiments were performed.  The authors, Professors Wilcox and Stephen of Columbia University, found that because people care about the image they present to close friends on social networks, social network use enhances self-esteem in users who are focused on close friends (i.e., strong ties) while browsing their social network. This leads to an increase in self-esteem and a decrease of self control.

"Think of it as a licensing effect: You feel good about yourself so you feel a sense of entitlement," Wilcox told The Wall Street Journal. Essentially, individuals want to protect their "enhanced view" of the world, he states. Hence why occasionally, people post comments on Facebook they would probably never say aloud.  The same logic would apply to Twitter.

"In offline social interactions, people can adapt." But with "online social networks people have less ability to tailor their message," states the research.  So while you might get along with someone in person, don't be surprised if you disagree with several of their post on Facebook. Essentially, their ideas are left uncensored or unaffected by social context -- more importantly the written word strips out all that non-verbal communicatoin that is such a keystone and significant part of effective communication.

Which brings me back to how to BE tolerant without being intolerant.

Admittedly, generalisations are amusing.  We all laugh at them.  Why do we laugh?  Because there is some truth to them and that is what makes it so humourous.  This song, from one of my favourite Broadway musicals, Avenue Q, sums up what I'm trying to convey.

Even I find it amusing to laugh at my own racial or feminine weaknesses or generalisations.  Is that because I'm indoctrinated?  That I am giving into and accepting society's negative view of women or Asians?  No, it's probably because I'm Australian and we take it as a national sport to make fun of ourselves - something I think that other societies could learn from!  But in all seriousness, I think the answer to all of this comes from self esteem.  You don't feel threatened by society's stereotypes or models or views because you accept yourself, for what you are and for what you can do.  If you think about it, the ones who are most upset or angry are those who have been hurt before by someone belittling or demeaning them because of their opinions, sex, race etc.  After that, there is that niggling seed of doubt and you want to vigorously defend yourself, to show that you are NOT weak, inferior etc.

So the next time someone says something you object to - the first thing you do is STOP.  No fingers on keypads!  Think, which part of what they said was offensive?  And, how can you, on your own, get them to your way of thinking?

Don't call in reinforcements to yell at them.  That's bullying and it makes you no better than the offending person.

How about a comment to let them know it was offensive?  A personal tell or quiet whisper would be enough. Saying it on a public forum so all your 1000 followers can read it, is not doing it quietly.  If you feel the need to air your opinion on your blog - so be it, but you need to demonstrate without being an ass, why it is offensive and what can be done to change it.  Be positive, encourage change, and guide, rather than clout them with a sledgehammer.
Tolerance is a tremendous virtue, but the immediate neighbors of tolerance are apathy and weakness.
- James Goldsmith
There is more to tolerance than changing wrong or offensive behaviour.  Acceptance of change and differences, is also part of tolerance.  Perhaps that is why I never feel the need to have to vigourously defend my gaming, or being female or my choice to use cloth nappies or vaccinate - it's because I accept that people have their own opinions and I respect them because everyone is entitled to an opinion.  Even if it's wrong.  I'll just go and prove them wrong!

Self confident individuals - that is what we should all aspire to be.  Teach our children, that no matter their preferences, sex, religion or race, to be confident in that they are doing the right thing (as long as it IS the right thing they are doing!), being good people and respect and accept others as they respect and accept themselves. Standing up for what is right, but respectfully and graciously, then maybe, just maybe they can avoid this self perpetuating cycle of intolerance that seems to haunt the times we live in now.

I'd like to thank Saunder of Non-Squishy heals for proof-reading and correcting me, and that I have blatantly plagiarised his corrections but I still can't find that typo....


  1. Only too happy to oblige - A few suggestions is hardly correcting! Oh, and it isn't plagarism if you have been given permission to use the words, which was sort of the point :D

    1. I had to thank you anyway for taking time to read my TLDR post :)

    2. *cough* *cough*. Sorry, I had to blog about it. :D

  2. This is a wonderful post, Navi - one I am bookmarking. Thank you.

    1. I am glad you approve and thank you for reading :)


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