I Respectfully Disagree

My dog was not feeling very tolerant toward that squirrel. Photo credit: Doree Weller

My dog was not feeling very tolerant toward that squirrel.
Photo credit: Doree Weller

I write a lot about tolerance and acceptance, and that I feel that they’re “good” qualities.  I’m sure most people agree with me.  However, people with liberal mindsets often put down people with more conservative mindsets for not “accepting” what they feel is okay.  And that’s where things get thorny.

For the record, I’m pro-human rights, which in my mind, means I support gay marriage (or marriage equality) and the right for LGBTQ people to just be treated as people.

However, not everyone agrees that being gay, for example, is “okay.”  A lot of people are even more opposed to gay marriage, and the Supreme Court ruling isn’t changing their minds.  That’s because people often object to gay marriage on religious or moral grounds.

About this time in the discussion, someone usually says that Jesus preached tolerance for all, and that it’s not tolerant to be anti-gay or anti-gay marriage.

I respectfully disagree.

Tolerance doesn’t mean that you like something.  It doesn’t mean that it’s okay with you.  It means that you tolerate it.

According to dictionary.com, tolerance means:

noun
1.a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions, beliefs, practices, racial or ethnic origins, etc., differ from one’s own; freedom from bigotry.

Nothing in there says that you have to condone an attitude, but I would like to point out that in order to be “fair” and “objective,” you have to understand.

One of the arguments people sometimes use against gay marriage is that “it’s not good for children,” and this is often based on anecdotal evidence of a few people raised in gay marriages who feel it negatively impacted them.  I can find thousands of people raised in heterosexual marriages or by single parents who feel that their parents’ relationship damaged them.  That doesn’t make heterosexual relationships to blame.

On the other hand, many people put down religious people for their intolerant attitudes by pointing to the extremists who don’t accurately portray religion.  The first group to pop to mind is the Westboro Baptist Church who protest funerals.  While they identify themselves as Christians, even other Christians believe them to be a “hate group.”  Just because someone has an opinion, and they’re Christian, doesn’t mean that all Christians believe the same way.

Let’s start treating one another as individuals, asking questions, and treating one another with respect.  At the core, we all want the same thing: to live our lives the best way we know how.  For Christians, that means figuring out how best to follow Jesus’s teachings.  For the LBGTQ community, that means being treated as equals.  For some people, those two ideas mesh well, but others can’t reconcile them.

I’m going to say something some might disagree with, and it’s that it’s okay if people disagree.  Respectfully disagreeing means that we listen to the other side and respond with respect.  The key here is that you honestly listen, and when you respond, you do so without name-calling, put-downs, or a condescending attitude.  These two issues make people quite passionate, and it can be difficult to be respectful in a discussion, but that’s tolerance.  Two people can have a disagreement, come no closer to agreeing by the end of it, and still listen to one another and respect one another.

My tolerance only ends when someone advocates or threatens harm to self or others.  That’s my line.  I love listening to people who disagree with me because I might learn something.  I love talking to people who disagree with me because I might teach something.  But if someone starts speaking in a disrespectful manner, my ears generally shut off, and I don’t hear anything but the disrespectful parts of the speech.

What are your thoughts on tolerance?

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