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#ToleranceMeans acknowledging the discomfort that comes with that conflict.

Updated: Apr 8

Casey J. Krolczyk, Graduate, TMD St. Thomas

As I picked myself up off the brittle and brown grass of a November soccer field, my wrist was swelling and throbbing in pain. A collision during practice left me with what turned out to be a compound fracture. That would have been cool if it wasn’t for the fact that the opposing force was the ball. A well-placed shot from the team captain didn’t find the back of the net, but my wrist had paid the price for saving the scrimmage. Before I could get off the field and on my way to the athletic trainer, my protective façade of tough-guy nonchalance had crumbled. My 15-year-old brain was left to contemplate the consequences of my teammates seeing me crying after being assaulted by a soccer ball.

Arriving in the trainer’s office, I sat down next to a bucket filled with ice and water. I always struggled with jumping off the end of the dock into the Minnesota lakes I grew up around, and I wasn’t particularly keen on the plunge into the icy water next to me. “Just relax,” she said. “The cold is going to get the swelling down and help you heal what’s hurt.” I took a deep breath and relaxed my hand into the water, taking the first step to mending the broken bone.

Tolerance is the ice water of civics and public discourse, initial action that must be taken to address a social problem, no matter how uncomfortable it may be. Our impulse may be to withdraw and to try and ignore the pain that plagues us, but the injury will still be there. Left unattended, it will continue to worsen. I feel privileged to study the law partly because I see the profession as an opportunity to engage with the world at a different level. We’re being trained to dive into the issues with zero-sum outcomes, to bring opposing parties together, and to find the path forward to the most just and truthful outcome. In short, we thrive in the cold water where the injury is most acute. While I delight at the prospect of doing this professionally, there’s so much more need for those skills than what the legal community can provide.

There’s pain in today’s world. It’s the fights over guns and sanctuary cities, the resurgence of racism, the changing economy and gender norms, and a thousand other issues. I’m neither educated nor arrogant enough to think that I have the answers to the problems we face, but I can invite others to join me in taking the cold plunge that tolerance requires of us. When we encounter situations where our own values clash with others, we need to acknowledge the discomfort that comes with that conflict. We can’t stop there though. Ask questions. Be curious, and find ways to build relationship beyond the narrow scope of the issue. Tolerance means acknowledging conflicting values while still building out a common ground that can be the basis of constructive change and solutions.


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