Tolerance- What Does it Mean to be Tolerant?

Tolerance is a word that you have probably heard a lot in the past few years.

Commonly used by both politically left-leaning and right-leaning individuals and groups, tolerance is a word that has different definitions to different people. Because the meaning of this word has been skewed by both the left and the right, the question remains: what does it mean to be tolerant?

tolerance tolerant

What does it mean to be tolerant?

What is tolerance? The fact of the matter is, it can have entirely different meanings to different people—and it is all dependent on perspective.

Tolerance Concepts From The Left

The political left has solidified their definition of what it means to be tolerant, though it will vary on an individual basis. Liberals have but a few main guidelines when it comes to tolerance, and they are as such:

Tolerance of minorities of all types- This includes racial minorities, immigrants, religious minorities such as those that practice Islam, and those that are LGBTA, non-binary, or polyamorous.

Tolerance of alternative lifestyles- This can range from those that do not believe in the use of vaccines to people who encourage the use of marijuana. With that being said, some liberals condemn practices with no scientific backing, while others do not.

Tolerance of political ideologies- This ranges from birth control reform to drug reform to the national riddance of the death penalty.

Tolerance Concepts From The Right

Like the political left, the right-wing has their own concept of what it means to be tolerant. Some of the primary aspects to their ideologies are:

Religion- This does not usually extend to all religious backgrounds, though it sometimes does, dependent on the individual. As a collective, right-leaning concepts of tolerance only consider the major religion in the Western world—Christianity.

Military- While the right does not necessarily tolerate everything the military is ordered to do, they preach tolerance of the military and what it stands for.

Symbols- The right tends to have passion for symbols such as crosses, the confederate flag, statues of confederate leaders, and the national flag.

Tolerance of political and personal ideologies- This may include but is not limited to traditional values and the belief that Caucasians and/or Christians are heavily discriminated against in the modern world.

tolerance tolerant The True Definition of Tolerance

Tolerance is a noun, described by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as, sympathy or indulgence for beliefs or practices differing from or conflicting with one’s own.

It is this definition that drives a unique and modern take on what it means to be tolerant. That take is that being tolerant is entirely objective. It means what you want it to mean, depending on your point of view and your experiences. Neither the left nor the right is wrong, as it is their experiences that encourage their beliefs to take shape in the way that they do.

It is this outlook that encourages the common saying of, “I will not tolerate intolerance”. Used both by left-wingers and right-wingers, this saying rings true. People from both ends of the spectrum will argue for their side of what they believe being tolerant is or is not, citing their personal definition as often as possible. It is a battle in which there are no winners.

How Do We Determine When Intolerance is Immoral?

Because the definition of tolerance does vary from person to person, society cannot associate intolerance with wrongdoing or vice versa. What is right may not meet a certain individual’s standard of what is tolerant, while what society deems wrong may meet the criteria. Since definitions have been so muddled, being intolerant is not something that we can say is right or wrong.

Instead, it should be treated on a case-by-case basis. Someone that is intolerant by a certain group’s definition could disagree with ideologies of white supremacy or discourage marijuana or psilocybin use among minors.

Because both white supremacy and drug use among minors would be considered wrong but are encouraged by different ends of the spectrum, being tolerant is entirely objective. There is no morality or immorality about it, as its definition does not suggest good or bad.

What we deem moral and immoral must be solved amongst humanity, weeding out definitions of tolerance that may be harmful to others or to society as a whole. It is only when we work together to change dangerous perceptions that we will see positive changes in society.


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