Thinking About Tolerance

In another year we’ll be electing a new U.S. President. The political machines are in full force these days, attempting to prop up their own while slashing their opponents. My political bent has drastically changed over the years and I unfortunately struggle with understanding (or many times even listening to) divergent points of view.  I recently read a book by Lillian Daniel (2013) about being spiritual and/or religious. In it she says:

“You can be open-minded and still know what you think. You can be accepting of other people’s ideas but still be willing to articulate your own” (Daniel, p. 164).

This quote struck a chord in me, as I often catch myself dismissing others opinions that diverge from my own. Yeah, I’ll give a confirming nod and say “That’s interesting” or “Well, that’s a bit different from my own thoughts on the situation.” But inside, I’m thinking “Wow, this person is ‘off his or her rocker.'” I’m sure I’m the only one that does this;) So maybe I’m contributing to some of the polarization that seems to be stifling any decent communication in U.S. politics.

To add to my guilt, I’m currently reading a book by Dave Tomlinson (2015). He goes even further in this regard when he says:

“The essence of genuine discussion is that each person is open to the possibility of being changed by what is shared. Without this, we might as well stand in front of a mirror and talk to ourselves. So it follows that the object of interacting with people of different faith backgrounds [one could also insert politics in general] is not simply tolerance of difference, but the expectation  that our own faith [or maybe insert political beliefs] will be enlarged by the encounter” (Tomlinson, p. 105).

I’m sure some of my friends are saying “Duh, this is quite simple.” And you’d be right. I guess what I’m saying is that it’s easy for me to nod and politely disagree with another’s point of view, but maybe the harder (and can I say more beneficial) part of it is actually making a genuine effort to both learn and benefit from that dissimilar opinion.

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