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#tolerancemeans trying to understand other peoples´ motives and beliefs

Salomé Alexandre Lourenço, Undergraduate, NOVA School of Law

November 28, 2023


The person who most taught me how to be tolerant is my older sister, Leonor, who has autism. Growing up with her and living with her now, means that a lot of times I have to try really hard to understand her, to figure out why, when confronted with a certain situation, she acts in such a different way than my other siblings or I would. It means that I have to accept that for my sister, it is really important that she always eats dinner with the yellow plate and not the blue one. It is accepting that moving her things out of place causes her to be angrier than my other siblings, because she memorizes where everything was placed in her bedroom. It is not judging her, but instead putting myself inside her head and trying to think like her for a moment. And for me, this is what tolerance is.


Salomé Alexandre Lourenço

It is having empathy, stepping on someone's shoes and really asking ourselves, why does this person think like this? It is understanding that people are a combination of nurture and nature, which means that our different backgrounds and our genetic makeups influence our beliefs and the way we think. And most importantly, being tolerant means talking and listening to those who think differently. It is asking them what makes them have a certain opinion with the ultimate goal of understanding instead of trying to convince them of our beliefs. It is realizing that difference is not only not threatening but beneficial and should be able to coexist.


Unfortunately, I think that this tolerance is very much lacking in today´s society. I see it in the Israel and Palestine War, I see it in the hallways of my university where different friend groups don´t talk to each other because they have different political and ideological orientations, I see it on Twitter, where people start insulting each other just because they are different sport teams´ fans. I see it, I feel it and it saddens me.


But I also believe that tolerance can be taught. It can be taught in families, schools and universities. It can become part of each of us, a way of living that sets us free from prejudice and from judging people before trying to understand them. It can also be practiced by our governments and politicians on a national and international level, it can make room for a more peaceful coexistence between different social, economical, religious and political groups. The paradigm of this are intergovernmental organizations, such as the UN or the IMF, where different countries from all around the world come together and surpasse their differences in the name of the common good. Or the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, ratified by 193 countries, which all agreed to respect these universal human rights. So, I take this and other examples and find peace in the fact that if it is true that throughout history a lot of intolerance has taken place, it is also true that countries and people have shown an enormous capacity of mutual respect and acceptance of each other´s differences.

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