“Laws alone can not secure freedom of expression; in order that every man present his views without penalty there must be spirit of tolerance in the entire population.”
Today is Election Day in the United States. This day is a wonderful expression of our freedom of choice. We are incredibly blessed to have a say in the officials who run our local, state, and federal governments! We all know that the results do not always turn out the way we expect or hope them too, but that is a great lesson for us in tolerance—tolerance for the way others perceive the best course of action or the “right” way to be.
Our world is made up of so many different people—7.2 billion, in fact! Each of us is raised with our own personal belief system, which are based on the society in which we live, our family’s traditions, our education, and our life experiences. While our beliefs may line up with others—both in large and small groups—our individuality is as unique as our fingerprints. Everyone is different.
Former president Bill Clinton is quoted as saying, “We all do better when we work together. Our differences do matter, but our common humanity matters more.” So, while we are each unique individuals with our own perceptions and ideas of right and wrong, we do have one important thing—the most important thing—in common: We are human beings sharing an experience on this one incredible planet of ours!
So how do 7.2 billion of us cohabit peacefully, purposely, and meaningfully? I believe the keyword is “tolerance.” This is a willingness to accept feelings, actions, beliefs, and opinions that differ from our own. We must be aware, however, that this does not mean we should just turn a blind eye toward injustices perpetrated against others in which they are harmed or their human rights or freedoms have been violated. That is a much larger issue for us to contend with as a global community. Here, I am talking about the everyday tolerances we can practice over the course of our lifetimes.
Just what does it mean to practice tolerance? The first step is becoming intimate with our own belief system and why we feel the way we do about certain ways of being and acting. I mean really examining through quiet contemplation and meditation the source of our beliefs of how people should think or be in a certain way.
When we know what makes us feel intolerant and we understand our reasons, that is when we can go about our day, noticing those things in the moment that might somehow “ruffle our feathers.” We can then make a conscious choice to take a breath and accept others for who they are and what they believe. In other words, we do not have to change anything about them. We can truly be open and receptive in each moment to others, as we wish others will be to us.
I am a great admirer of Victor Frankl’s work and his magnificent book, Man’s Search for Meaning—a must-read for everyone. This book had a hand in shaping my ability to be tolerant and to be open and loving with others and their views. Frankl wisely said:
“Being tolerant does not mean that I share another one’s belief but it does mean that I acknowledge one’s right to believe, and obey his own conscience.”
When we approach life this way, with acceptance for our differences, freedom rings true. And honestly, this is the very reason we have the right to vote in this great country of ours.
As a side note, I would like to wish Michelle Maros, the creative director and blogger for Peaceful Mind Peaceful Life, a happy, healthy, and beautiful birthday today! You are a shining light, bringing peace and love to our world with your words and inspiration daily.