“Tolerance or Patronizing?”


Tolerance as a virtue is easy to confuse with the word “tolerate.” As in I can’t “tolerate” the way he treats her. That word suggests that immediate action is required to do something about a situation. But tolerance implies something quite different and is rarely demonstrated in the present political and religious climate of the United States. I suppose that a colloquial way of putting it would be embracing the idea of “live and let live.”

What would it mean to show tolerance about another person’s religious or political beliefs? Why am I contrasting it with being patronizing towards those beliefs? Tolerance suggests, I think, an ability to respect another person’s ideas without agreeing with them. I think that a patronizing attitude shows that I am pretending to respect another person’s ideas but really know that they are wrong. I think people can tell when we are patronizing rather than showing tolerance.

For me this is more of a challenge politically than religiously. It took me many years of exploration to finally plant myself in a Catholic church. I actually do respect other religious views or the lack of them. I am not patronizing in interactions with others about faith. But I evidence much less tolerance about political views different from my own. I am not including racist or anti-Semitic views, just run of the mill conservative outlooks. Here I seem to be having an internal discussion in my mind as I question the person’s intelligence at holding those views! I get flustered and have trouble recognizing their right to disagree with me. I have shown much less tolerance recently, joining with too many Americans in an increasingly polarized country.

May I learn to practice tolerance in politics as I do with religion. May we all.

10 thoughts on ““Tolerance or Patronizing?”

  1. I find that tolerance, although vital for a healthy society, is very hard to maintain. I suppose the essence of tolerance is that you do no try to stop or correct something with which you disagree, instead, you tolerate it. Too often people imagine is a tolerance society is one in which everyone agrees when, in fact, it is one where many disagreeing viewpoints are able to coexist. I find it difficult to bite my lip and tolerate some of the views I hear but I know that I must – I am tolerant and I do not try and ban or banish those I disagree with. I guess, humility helps with tolerance. If you know you are quite likely to be wrong or mistaken it is easier to recognise that others may be correct. However, I have difficulties with humility as well so this does not help my predicament.


    1. The whole idea that we can agree to disagree seems to have evaporated. I was explaining “ad hominem” to my grandchildren yesterday so they could learn another was of arguing without personal attack. They recognized that our president thrives on ad hominem. Also as I have aged many of my beliefs have changed. So I remain open to that possibility as I listen to someone with whom I disagree.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Not that you need to hear it from me, but I must commend you for your wish to remain tolerant, and to have the grace to see some amount of intolerance in your own political views at times. I can assure you that I can also be politically intolerant. I was just talking to my daughter tonight and she told me about a psychology class she’s taking in which they’re studying the polarization of people’s political viewpoints, based on the single-sided focus of news media outlets today, and the important need to hear both sides. I didn’t want to agree with her, but I had to.

    Thanks so much for your openness and honesty on this touchy subject. After reading your post, I think I need to do much better, and I believe we both will. “May we all”.


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