Yesterday my best girl and I were discussing the challenge of dealing with what we consider close-minded and judgmental perspectives. We talked about how there are people within certain religious, philosophical, idealogical or political positions that do not agree with the inherent makeup, lifestyles or personal choices of certain other peoples.
The conversation addressed how it was difficult to accept and to deal with the level of intolerance that these sects of people exhibit, pronounce, and prosthelytize. Through this discussion it occurred to me how much intolerance I had toward the intolerance of the people within these groups. The mismatched minister was ready to preach about intolerance and how we should not tolerate intolerance.
“Be intolerant of these intolerances because intolerance is wrong!”
I wrench an eyebrow at the idea. How do I embrace tolerance without subscribing to intolerant viewpoints? How do I accept that these people have a right to be intolerant without condoning intolerance through that position, in and of itself? This is irony scratching its head, paradox choosing sides.
It’s not my intent here to be ironic. It’s my intent to embrace compassion. But am I only willing to embrace compassion for those who fall within my idealogical arena? Or can I take a moment to attempt to understand where those that expound their ideals of intolerance are coming from? There is something very human, very consistent with embracing the precious beauty of being alive that is the source of their position. They love their children and they fear for their safety. They celebrate the aspects of life that allow them to feel love for that which they do not want to see disappear or become devoured by those things they believe threaten their way of life.
So if the origin of intolerance is fear, what is the basis for my fear? What does the intolerance of others encroach on in my own life that I hold so dear, that is at risk of being dampened and darkened by opposing values? Or is it my sadness of the witnessing of the paradigm of separation, of the Us vs. Them mentality that is so pervasive in our culture? If I travel down the road dividing humanity by who’s with me on one side and who’s against me on the other, do I reach the end of the road to see myself standing there, then divide myself accordingly? The part of myself I love from the part of myself I hate?
When I find myself able to accept those who may not align with my ideologies that’s when I am able to put aside the need to sort aspects of myself into piles of what I like and what I dislike about myself and simply merge them into a single pile labeled “acceptance”. And in that pile resides peace within.