Tolerance is Insufficient

It is not enough to tolerate something or someone. We cannot tolerate each other into connection, understanding or belonging. We will not tolerate our issues, concerns and challenges into progress or tolerate our way into finding paths forward on issues that matter to us all.

Say or think the word. Feel into it. Roll it around in your mind or on your tongue. Feel the energy of it. Tolerance is not generous or expansive. It is elitist. It suggests, I’ll put up with you or with your opinion even if I think it is wrong or misguided — because — I’m tolerant?

Medical definitions of tolerance are about the capacity to endure pain or hardship; it is about endurance, fortitude, stamina. How long can I hold out? How much do I have to put up with?

Eventually the veneer of tolerance cracks. We give in or give up. Whatever causes us to be dismissive of other views or another person’s experience as if it was not valid, also causes us to go from tolerance to annoyance to frustration to anxiety to fear and even to hate. It causes us to justify our own sense of superiority, experience, knowledge – the reasons my beliefs, my values, my faith are true. I am right. You are something less than right all the way to completely wrong.


Candle Light Vigil and Halifax Grand Parade post the Quebec City Mosque Killings – connecting to share sorrow and grief with others

So, if tolerance is insufficient to find ways forward, what do we need? The capacity to suspend judgment. To be genuinely curious about another person, their experiences and how they have come to see the world the way they have. To bring humility and generosity to truly engage in a conversation of discovery. To honour not just the other person’s perspective but also our own and any number of other ones that might exist.

From a point of connection, we can explore differences and discover the vibrancy that exists in another person’s experiences. From understanding we can empathize with each other and discover the humanity that exists in each of us. From these we can create places and spaces of belonging. This causes us to move past the fear that holds us in the place of tolerance that often becomes intolerance.

This is essentially the work and result of Worldview Intelligence and the explorations invited – whether personal, cultural, organizational or about a social system. Everywhere we go we hear, we really need this right now. It is why we care deeply about this work, why it is our life passion. Building connection in an increasingly fragmented and polarized world. Generating understanding in a time when the impulse is to cocoon away from the world and protect ourselves from “the other”. Because tolerance is not enough. Because true compassion and understanding requires meeting someone else in their experience.

The shortest distance between two people is a story. Can you be available to hear someone else’s story and share your own?

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