Monday, December 2, 2019

Tolerance and intolerance: The good, the bad, and the ugly

  What is tolerance and is it always a good thing? It helps to understand various aspects of this concept.

Basic Definition. Tolerance is demonstrated by an ability and willingness to accept and respect different people, ideas, and practices. Tolerance promotes non-judgmental, open-minded, patient, permissive "live and let live" attitudes toward diverse people, ideas, and practices. It is an essential virtue in a democratic society. Tolerance, an antonym of intolerance, bigotry, narrow-mindedness, and prejudice, and it requires respectful acceptance of racial, ethnic and physical characteristics; unpopular, unorthodox, or offensive beliefs, opinions, and practices, especially those that tend to evoke hatred, prejudice, disdain, contempt, or passionate disagreement.

Passive and Active Tolerance. Tolerance and intolerance can be passive or active. Passive tolerance and intolerance refer to privately held attitudes that are not reflected in words or actions. Active intolerance is demonstrated by words or acts of opposition, derision, prejudice, or persecution while active tolerance embodies words or action of acceptance, support, or appreciation.

Continuum of Tolerance: Tolerant attitudes embrace a range of five attitudes: 1) indifferent acknowledgement, 2) grudging endurance despite discomfort or disagreement, 3) whole-hearted acceptance, 4) empathetic understanding, 5) respect and appreciation.

Judgmentalness refers to people who offer uninvited, hypercritical, disapproving, disparaging, and even condemnatory judgments about the way another person thinks, lives, or acts. It is a sibling of intolerance and a form of disrespect.

Limitations on Tolerance. Unlimited, undiscerning tolerance ceases to be a social virtue when it accepts, allows, condones, or supports or enables attitudes and actions that should be intolerable in a just and humane democratic society.

  We may not always agree on who is or is not a bigot, but we should agree to oppose bigotry in all its forms. This is not a partisan issue. Tolerance of intolerance is a self-destructive mindset.

Intolerance of Intolerance. Paradoxically, a tolerant society requires intolerance of bigotry, prejudice, and croup-related hatred. While there is some controversy at the outer limits of what is intolerable, a tolerant society must discourage, repress or prevent certain groups and individuals who preach or practice extreme levels of intolerance including conduct that is inhumane, injurious, disrespectful of the dignity of others, or otherwise socially malevolent. For example, most people would view bigotry and any form of persecution, abuse of children, lynchings and other forms of vigilante justice, murders, rapes, torture and other such conduct as intolerable.

Controversy: Civility vs. Political Correctness. Just as some fear that tolerance can go too far, there are those who believe the limitations on tolerance are intolerable. Advocates of tolerance seek to reduce or eliminate words, attitudes, and actions that exclude, marginalize, or insult groups of people who are socially disadvantaged or discriminated against. The pejorative use of the term “political correctness” refers to extreme or excessive efforts to suppress or condemn generalizations and characterizations that, though negative, are nevertheless true.

  About the author: Michael Josephson is one of the nation’s most sought-after and quoted ethicists. Founder and president of the Josephson Institute and its CHARACTER COUNTS! project, he has conducted programs for more than 100,000 leaders in government, business, education, sports, law enforcement, journalism, law, and the military. Mr. Josephson is also an award-winning radio commentator.

  This article was published by the Josephson Institute.

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