Tolerance is a concept that has changed for me over time. I once defined it as simply being understanding and accepting of others - no knowledge or significant effort required. After becoming a counselor, however, I learned that tolerance involved the effort of learning about others as well. Even more recently and more importantly, after becoming a mother and watching my child grow, tolerance has come to mean a whole lot more. Tolerance is a never-ending journey of self-discovery, reflection, and self-improvement.
I am lucky enough to be the parent of a bright and strong-willed child who is not shy about being her own unique self. She declares that she has a "different sense of fashion" and wants to be a boy when she grows up but for now she is a girl but just likes to dress like a boy. I have faced by own deep-seated concepts of gender and found that I needed to explore more carefully what gender means so that I can support my child's identity and development as she moves through elementary school and beyond.
Tolerance to me now involves taking proactive steps to become educated about other ways of being in this world and not simply saying that I accept and understand others. Tolerance means I have a responsibility to admit my own flaws, own and confront my own prejudices, and take steps to address those by truly engaging with others in meaningful conversations. Finally, it also means being an advocate for those who face prejudice and simply being present to listen to another's journey.
Tolerance truly is an active endeavor and not a passive one as I had once assumed it to be. My child has given me the gift of understanding tolerance in an entirely new way and I can only hope that I live up to her expectations of being her advocate, her shoulder to cry on, and a sponge for all the new things she will no doubt teach me over time. My hope is that I can apply that in other areas of my life so I can learn from, advocate for, and be present for others. Tolerance, to me, truly is a life-long journey of discovery and learning.