4-7-19 Tolerance, Acceptance

Tolerance, Acceptance

Tolerance is not always seen as a virtue. Some of the connotations of the term tolerance are not very pleasant. For instance, to tolerate can mean to put up with something in a rather grudging or resentful manner or tolerance can be associated with weakness, an inability to stand your ground and assert yourself. And tolerance is often thought to mean agreement. In Buddhism tolerance is extremely important and is the acceptance that other people hold different views from us. Tolerance is the willingness to allow others to be different in their views and actions. Above all tolerance is the absolute avoidance of using power, violence or coercion of other people to think and believe as we do. Tolerance is an attitude of loving kindness towards those who hold views which are different from ours and even towards those who hold views which are repugnant to us. Intolerance on the other hand, is the use of force, violence and coercion to make other people behave as we want them to and hold the views we want them to hold.

So how do we practice tolerance without being weak, vague or negatively condescending? Hatred is not appeased by hatred, by love alone is hatred appeased. However tolerance does not mean accepting harm being done to ourselves or others. We do need to speak up, and perhaps take action when we see harm being done. We can take action, as kindly as possible, to not permit harm and still feel a sense of compassion for the offender, they are acting from a place of fear and confusion.

Today there is a larger awareness and effort to acknowledge and accept people who dress in a different way, or people of a particular nationality, of a particular skin color, of a particular age, or religious belief, political beliefs or occupation. There are still many prejudices in the world that cause great harm, and tolerance does not extent indefinitely to anyone if they are causing harm, but we are working in the right direction. You do not have to like someone in order to feel a connection and kindness towards them. You can have a consistent attitude of goodwill towards someone even if you do not like them. It is easier if you do like them of course. You can be devoted to your own beliefs and follow them wholeheartedly, but at the same time respect other traditions. It is possible to not agree with a doctrine, belief or lifestyle, without rejecting those who adhered to it.

Often the difficulty we experience with others who are different from us stems from a tendency to make instant judgments or even to prejudge what we do not like in ourselves. We can’t be tolerant of others when we do not like ourselves. Our intolerance of ourselves will create tension and conflict within ourselves and will come out as intolerance, judging and a disliking of others. We tend to focus on what is wrong with us, and not give ourselves credit for our good and healthy attributes. If you are here, working on your spiritual path that is good! Remember what it was like a while ago when you were very fearful, confused and creating harm? You have decided to take steps to work with who you WERE and become a better person. A good path to be on! Keep going.

If you feel like you are co-dependent, or too aloof, or don’t speak up for yourself well, or are too aggressive, or need others too much, these are all a part of being normal and human and we can celebrate our good qualities while accepting and working on our barriers. This is all one thing, your good and your bad self are not two different people, it is who you are, and it is fine. Work with it all, with a kindness towards the totality of who you are.

Likes and dislikes are irrelevancies in the spiritual life and we need to strive to get beyond them to something more substantial. We need to kindly be aware of and disapprove of what is unskillful in our behavior or thoughts or speech. In other words we can, as it were, and disagree with ourselves. At the same time we need to maintain feelings of kindness towards ourselves. We can disapprove of our own unskillfulness without having to undermine ourselves, or think of ourselves as worthless or be angry with ourselves. This is what is meant by being tolerant to ourselves. Sometimes people acknowledge that they’ve done wrong and go on to completely negate themselves as if there were nothing of value in themselves. That is intolerance. Sometimes people acknowledge that they’ve done wrong and say blithely, “Oh, that’s me, that’s the way I am, I can’t help it.” That is indulgence. As we progress on the spiritual path we may experience conflict within ourselves. It is as if part of us wants to lead the spiritual life and meditate and study and so on and another part of us doesn’t want to have anything to do with it, would rather go to the cinema, judge others, feel like a victim, be a wise ass, go down to the pub, keep being upset when you don’t get YOUR way, watch mind numbing programs and so on.

The best way of dealing with it is to identify as distinctly as possible the two sides to the conflict, even name them and then get them into some sort of dialogue. Carry out this dialogue in writing and with friends so as to objectify it. In order to progress allow into consciousness, aspects of yourself which don’t seem to be on the spiritual path. Paradoxically, when you do become more conscious in this way, you are more on the spiritual path than ever. We cannot progress spiritually by denying who we are. Everything must be brought into consciousness and transformed by the warmth of awareness and loving kindness.

There are some basic truths which we can know from our own experience such as “hatred is not appeased by hatred” towards ourselves or towards others.

Tolerance only for those who agree with you is no tolerance at all. Ray Davis

We can then decide what course of action, if any, would be best to take. A course of action informed by our values, our hearts and a spiritual sense of reality. Even if it’s difficult or uncomfortable. And sometimes it will be difficult and uncomfortable. That is where growth comes from.

How do you fill your bucket? One drop at a time. The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. The great arises out of small things that are honored and cared for. Heart of Recovery web site – fcheartofrecovery.com


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