Love and Tolerance

Love and Tolerance

I keep hearing about calls for unity, inevitably followed by all the reasons why these calls for unity won’t work, or assumptions about ulterior motives. To me, this broader conversation isn’t really about unity, but about something even bigger: love and tolerance. 

When I am hurting and feeling downtrodden, I find it harder to love and care for myself or others. My tolerance for behavior, whether my own or someone else’s, narrows. Right now, a lot of people are encountering an array of very difficult feelings and circumstances. 

How can we properly address the monumental struggles we face in the best interest of  ourselves and each other?

If you asked me this question on a warm, sunny day when I’m relaxed and feeling good about things, I would tell you that I believe all people are worthy of love and kindness, and that our challenge is to observe, listen, and feel more deeply to appreciate them more fully. But when I’m in a darker place, my worldview can shrink pretty quickly. 

We have all been significantly affected by world events this year—and as the days, weeks, and months drag on, it feels less like an event and more like our new reality. 

My personal challenge, and my challenge to you, is to determine how we respond and behave in the face of less-than-desirable circumstances:

  • Do we approach each day with a kind and loving view of ourselves and those around us? 
  • Do we create room in our lives (and in the world) for those who think differently from us, or actually are different from us? 
  • Can we find comfort knowing we are unique just like everyone else, and that this universal truth makes the world an ever-changing, interesting place? 
  • Are we open to acknowledging that we all have much more in common than not? 
  • Can we look and listen for opportunities to relate and connect with others?

In difficult times, I often answer these questions with a simple “no.” So, where does that leave me? 

Ultimately I have found that thinking my way out of a funk is less effective than taking an action.

The expression “right action leads to right thinking” is a helpful mantra. What small, simple action can I take to make my personal sphere, or the world itself, a little better? I can tell you that 100% of the time, taking an action brightens my mood, if only a little. Sometimes it even freshens my view of myself and the world.

I play competitive bridge, and I delight in opening a new hand to see what cards have been dealt to me. In a version of the game called duplicate bridge, all players are dealt the exact same hand; the competition is in seeing if you can play that hand better than others. Life doesn’t always deal us aces and kings, and we are not in a competition, but still I find this analogy comforting: it reminds me to focus on my response to life rather than the circumstances over which I may not have control.

M. Scott Peck starts his famous book, The Road Less Traveled, with a stark and powerful sentence: “Life is difficult.” I recoil from that concept often. I seek distractions and try to rationalize that if I just manage situations well, or work harder, or think more creatively, I can change that reality. But accepting that life is actually difficult for all of us opens the door for appreciating everyone’s experiences. 

Love and tolerance are two powerful tools that help me do this: small acts of love and reminding myself that the world is an abundant place with room for everyone. 

Gary Chapman’s 5 Love Languages reminds me that the way I express love may not always match how others experience it. Whether through Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, Giving/Receiving Gifts, Quality Time, or Physical Touch, these five methods of showing and feeling love help me explore how I can be more loving to those around me.

I think we all can benefit from being more loving and tolerant with ourselves and with each other. Unity isn’t possible until we recognize, name, and honor the realities of our divisions. Then we can discuss our ultimate goal, whether it’s unity or simply “cohabitating” in our glorious country with profound respect that there is ideological and physical room for everyone.

I hope we can all make a little more “room” for others today.