Tolerance is a basic requirement for getting along with people. I am a different person with different tastes and preferences, different habits and different strengths. I’m going to do things differently and I’m not going to like the way the way you do things. I’m especially not going to like it if you do something that is morally wrong or do something to hurt me. Since conflict is inevitable tolerance is absolutely essential to all of our interpersonal relationships.
All these years I’m been walking around with the idea that tolerance means separating between the person and his or her actions. Now that I think about it, this is a fallacious concept. We cannot separate people from their actions. This person did this action. What we do is clearly and inextricably connected to who we are. It’s a package deal.
Let’s go back for a minute to Viktor Frankl’s twin logotherapy concepts of conscience and responsibility. Conscience, the way Frankl uses the word, means attunement – to be attuned to the call of the moment, to hearing my inner voice (which my external reality is actually alerting me to). Responsibility is my ability to respond to the call. In describing what it means to be human, Frankl says that it entails being responsible, being a deciding being. When people are not attuned they will do things that are hurtful to themselves and others.
Because we are interacting with human beings (who by definition are essentially responsible), we hold people responsible for their actions whether they are acting like human beings or not.
What then, does tolerance mean? Tolerance means we don’t deny or condone the stuff we don’t like but we put up with it because we understand that there is so much more to the person than this. Often the things we don’t like are trivial compared to the whole of the person. Sometimes what they’ve done is not at all trivial from our perspective. Even then, it’s possible to continue to care about the person in spite of this. The process of cultivating this ability is not simple but it’s worth the effort. (Batya Yaniger)