Okay, kids, play time is over. Get out your white coats and microscopes because we’re going back to the lab. Today’s topic is tolerance. Do I have it? Can I get it? What exactly is it? I think I know. I also think I have it most of the time. Most of the time isn’t all the time, but remember; we’re all human and subject to human error. At least that’s what I’ve been trying to remind myself of late.
I think I am tolerant of all sorts of silliness. I believe racism is a product of ignorance and passive aggressive behavior is the result of feelings of unworthiness. I even believe murderers and child molesters (gasp!) deserve love. I believe, in most cases, a lack of love creates that type of behavior. Don’t be confused: I do not suggest hiring either offender to babysit your kids or walk your dogs, but I am against the death penalty because I believe it is never the compassionate choice to harm another living creature, no matter what they have done. I hope to make decisions like this on whether or not it’s compassionate, not right or wrong. There is no ultimate definition of right and wrong. Some people think it’s wrong to receive blood or drink caffeine. Others think it is wrong for two people of the same sex to fall madly in love and want the American dream. (They don’t deserve the American dream!) Right and wrong are different to every single person. This brings me to tolerance.
I have very little tolerance for people that know everything. I don’t mean people that know what’s right for them and they live their truths. I mean people who think they know what is right for everyone. I am talking about (in case it isn’t clear yet) religious fanatics. Even some weekenders that go to church for the righteous band and ice cream socials tend to think they know more about your relationship with God than you do. Why is that? What makes them so right?
I know what makes them so right. I know what it’s like to have an epiphany and really see what’s going on in your heart. It can be joyous and liberating. When the flashlight of your mind shines on a new part of your brain, raising your awareness just a tiny bit, it can be an amazing moment of hope, joy and enlightenment. We’ve all had moments like this. Like the time I finally understood the multiplication table or the way I saw in a flash how to ride my two-wheeled bicycle without falling. It isn’t always an ancient universal secret your flashlight lands upon with confidence. Sometimes it is simple, even ordinary, like learning to tie your shoes. We are all humans and we are all capable of raising our awareness, no matter how trivial it may seem.
I understand why religious people want to share what is in their hearts. I understand that desire to yell from the rooftops, “It’s okay, everyone! I know it is! I have the answers to all your problems and all the happiness you want is yours!” I have felt like this. I have had my heart opened and I have seen the kindness of the universe. I have felt the hand of god on my heart and I know certain things to be true, for me. I have overflowed with love at the thought of helping my friends and family move through difficult times with more ease.
At one time, I was like a born-again Christian high on jailhouse religion after a two-year stint in the slammer. I was nauseating(er.) I could not for the life of me understand why my mother didn’t change her life instantly upon learning all these new truths. I knew what she had to do to be happy. I knew how she could solve her problems. I wondered why my best friend still mourned a past love. (Especially when he’s the one that taught me so much!) I was frustrated at times. I was confused and wondered why I could see how to fix things and other people around me couldn’t. I thought them willful and petulant. I wanted my friends and family to be happy so bad. I wanted them to feel the love I felt in and from the universe.
In short, I became my worst nightmare. It wasn’t until I stopped forcing my ideas on people that they started to listen to me. Before they thought, “Of course she thinks she has all the answers, her life seems fine.” And then I did something weird. I started to listen to what they were saying to me. I began to understand that I can’t tell someone else how to be happy. I don’t know what they need to do to learn their lessons. I don’t know what journey they’re on any more than they can know what journey I am taking. It’s so odd how that happens. You really can hear when you take time to listen.
It was a slap in the face to find out how intolerant I was! I was taken aback at how easy it is to judge when you have all the answers. For the first time, I started to understand these uber-religious Super Christians (“Super Cs” for short.) I could see how subtle a shift it is from wanting to share your inner joy to condemnation of others when they refused it. (“Why are they refusing something so wonderful?”) That was when I finally started to understand tolerance and what it really is.
Tolerance is the understanding that we don’t know what other people need to be happy and true. Tolerance is shown when we allow people to be exactly who they are and make their own mistakes. It is oh-so-very hard sometimes to accept people as they are, especially when you can see their potential. It is a challenge, but one that will reward you tenfold since what you give to others, you also give to yourself. And you are worthy of tolerance!
I hate to admit it, but I’ve had a hard time with tolerance lately. I like to blame my friend, Joni, for doing this religious-“Look for God in all kinds of places,” experiment. I love what she’s doing, but it’s causing me to be exposed to many intolerant people. And each time I see or hear someone claiming they have the “right” way or the “true path to God” I get angry. No one pisses me off like those people do. How dare they even think they know me and what I need!
I don’t like seeing that side of myself or feeling that way. I really want to understand why it’s so hard for me to be tolerant of this kind of behavior and yet I can openly forgive evil (non-compassionate) humans for their trespasses against humanity? It seems hypocritical. It is hypocritical. It is exactly what I don’t want to be.
Aha! I don’t want to be that way. I am afraid of being “that way.” (Hypocritical, hyper critical and judgmental.) Since I am afraid of being that, I judge those that are, thus making me the very thing I detest. It is a cruel, unwelcome knowledge. I feel silly in the aftermath of such eye-openers. I feel like I am tripping on a land mine of my own creation. And in a way, I am. I set myself up to learn every lesson I learn. I get opportunities all the time to let go of my fear of being judged and mentally sent to hell by religious freaks. I’m sorry, that wasn’t very tolerant. I mean religious know-it-alls. (Alright, I’m working on it!) If I get angry every time I’m confronted with this situation, I am not really learning anything. I am hoist by my own petard!
Tolerance is unconditional love in action. If you are loving and tolerant with all people, no matter what they are doing or saying to you that upsets you (like telling you you’re most definitely going to hell,) you will be seen as a safe place to “freak out.” People will feel safe being vulnerable with you, knowing they will not be judged. You will be able to give others the same love, acceptance and understanding that we all tirelessly seek. In return, you will give that to yourself-which is where all the best gifts of the universal consciousness (god) are born: in us! We are all worthy of tolerance not only from others, but from ourselves as divine creators. We created this universe and these opportunities for evolution. We created ourselves as a delicate juxtaposition of humans and gods. Or as some say, we were created in God’s image. And the god I know and love is reflected in all of us. God is not exclusive and there isn’t one right path to get there. No matter what the Super Cs are yelling at you from their mighty pulpits, know that you alone can choose tolerance. You alone are responsible for finding your peace. It may or not include god (or God.) If it does, just remember to be tolerant of others that choose something else. I have to remember to be tolerant of people that don't choose tolerance. They probably need more love than they know.
If you would like to know more about Joni's project, see her blog "Hope's Journey" at : http://www.jonikmartin.blogspot.com/ She is a fantastic writer with a sharp and hilarious wit. She is also hopelessly intolerant of stupidity, which I find really cute.