Tolerance can never be complete. There are always two sides. To tolerate one thing is to not tolerate another. If I tolerate free speech, I may also be tolerating hate speech or bigotry. If I tolerate a religion that kills animals, I may also be tolerating animal abuse. It’s impossible to tolerate all things and all people, because a decision in one direction is also a decision in other directions. Any choice to tolerate one thing may also be a decision not to tolerate its polar opposite.

No matter what, it still comes down to priorities and values. While I respect the ideal of being tolerant and respectful of positions, behaviors, and values different than my own, I also have to understand that tolerance of everything is not only impossible but also foolish and detrimental in the long run. Ultimately, we all have to live by values deeper than political correction, respectful tolerance, and individual rights. We have to live by overarching standards that give meaning and boundaries to respectful behavior, tolerance, and rights.

Tolerance, then, is a slight misnomer. The first priority is to identify values, a wise and broad set of rights inside those values, and behaviors contrary to morality, those values, and those rights. While we all have to be tolerant of positions other than our own, pure tolerance is impossible, and to try to do so would be an exercise in futility and ultimately violence. There must be many things we have to tolerate to live in a pluralistic society, but there also have to be many things we cannot tolerate if we desire to live in a just and moral society. Tolerance is not the core of social and moral life, but only one factor of expression. Wisdom and morality have to be the core.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *