The now defunct Spokane 7 published a column by Jill Wagner awhile back. The headline boldly proclaimed, “Tolerance not the same as true acceptance.” To which I would reply: duh.
Wagner argues in the column that there is a distinct difference between tolerance and acceptance and that tolerance is inherently worse than acceptance.
Specifically, Wagner writes, “Surveys conducted within the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community often cite the difference between feeling tolerated and feeling accepted. Tolerance, in this case, is about grudgingly being put up with.”
Wagner is dead on in one respect. Tolerance and acceptance are two decidedly different words with two decidedly different meanings. But tolerance is not a bad thing; it’s an essential part of what allows two people that disagree with each other to move past their differences and love one another. And while acceptance is not inherently bad, I would argue that it can be far more dangerous than tolerance.
Just for fun, let’s see how www.dictionary.com defines the words “tolerance” and “acceptance”:
— Tolerance is defined as, “a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions, practices, race, religion, nationality, etc., differ from one’s own; freedom from bigotry.”
— Acceptance is defined as, “the act of assenting or believing: acceptance of a theory.”
Based on those definitions, I would say that tolerance is accepting the humaneness of someone you disagree with despite rejecting some or all of their beliefs, while acceptance requires one to actually take on the beliefs of others and incorporate them into their own belief system.
Wagner writes in her column, “The first association we make is with the notion of religious tolerance and the promise of the New World to practice any faith without persecution.” What she doesn’t seem to realize is that pushing acceptance of homosexuality on people whose religious beliefs conflict with such acceptance infringes on their right to religious freedom.
I am not by any means suggesting that Christians-or anyone else-should not accept homosexuals-or anyone else-as human beings deserving of basic human dignity, but that doesn’t mean that Christians should automatically be compelled to accept homosexuality (as one example) just for the sake of acceptance. I feel it’s perfectly legitimate, even necessary, for people to tolerate something that goes against their beliefs, religious or otherwise, without accepting it.
Universal acceptance is to essentially take on the beliefs and convictions of everyone else while abandoning your own. A totally accepting person is not their true self, but rather a mish-mashed amalgamation of everyone else. Universal acceptance is conformity in the most extreme and horrible way possible. If we truly must accept everyone equally, then that includes neo-Nazis, holocaust deniers, and true homosexual haters like those of the Westboro Baptist Church.
I don’t accept the messages of these groups of people. Nobody should. So I reject Wagner’s assertion that true acceptance is better than “mere” tolerance. Tolerance implies discretion in the beliefs and attitudes one embraces. And while it’s impossible for all of our beliefs and attitudes to be compatible with each other, we can certainly recognize the rights of others to hold conflicting beliefs and that, by definition, is tolerance-and it’s a truly wonderful thing.
And if you happen to disagree with me, I don’t expect you to accept my crazy beliefs-but please, at the very least, find it in your heart to tolerate them.