Tolerance – A Tricky Word

Tolerance is a tricky word. Actually, its meaning is very straightforward, but when put into a social perspective in the modern age, it doesn’t really mean what we believe it means.

According to the dictionary, tolerance is:

  1. The ability or willingness to tolerate the existence of opinions or behaviour that one dislikes or disagrees with.
  2. The capacity to endure continued subjection to something such as a drug or environmental conditions without adverse reaction.


And yet, people often ask for #tolerance – tolerate the immigrants, tolerate the LGBTQ community, tolerate the conservatives, tolerate the Leavers/Remainers, etc. The list is virtually endless. We use this word mostly when we mean understanding, acceptance or “as you were”.

One tolerates the loud birthday party next door, the guy in the subway who has last showered probably a week ago or the corrupted officials in the government. But one cannot tolerate a sexual orientation, practising a certain religion or having a particular origin. One can either accept or deny acceptance.

People are different. There are a few things in life, which we are born in and they were not a conscious choice.

I was born in Bulgaria, Europe. My family is Orthodox Christian. I suppose because everyone around then is/was. Ergo my baptism in this particular Christian set. I am also a male heterosexual because I am attracted to women. These are all things I was born in.

Simultaneously, I have many friends who were also born in Bulgaria but deviate from my pattern. About half of them are women. Some of them are Muslim (Turkish minority) or Catholics. Others are homosexual or bisexual. A very few do not feel comfortable in the body they were born with. These are not choices, these are a given from the get-go.

Yes, one could argue that religion is a choice, but my personal opinion is that a conscious choice to practice or not or to convert, happens well after birth. People shouldn’t be asking for tolerance, they should be asking for understanding and acceptance. At least in these cases.

Tolerance is something that you do not like, but you go along with hoping for better times to come. Understanding and acceptance are taking things at face value and moving on. Tolerance will not deliver equal rights, but understanding and acceptance will.

Copyright © 2018 Borislav Kiprin. All Rights Reserved.