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#ToleranceMeans One Can Love and Be Loved

Updated: Apr 8

Arielle Brown, Graduate, TMD UIUC

Tolerance is more than the common saying, “Let us agree to disagree.” Tolerance needs to be grounded in compassion or love, because these concepts include unconditional positive regard. Compassion-based or love-based tolerance conveys the message:

“Let us acknowledge our differences and not pretend they do not exist. However, let us have a discussion about our differences along with our similarities. I view you as a human being with your own worldview, experiences, perspectives who is worthy of respect and compassion; I hope you can see me the same way.”

Many times we can best define a concept by first stating what it is not. I will illustrate this with compassion-based tolerance. Compassion-based tolerance is not: pretending differences do not exist, taking on others’ beliefs through hostile debates, or coercion.

My understanding of tolerance expanded as I faced instances of discrimination and microaggressions as a Black, Christian, heterosexual woman. In addition to being told I did not belong in competitive academic programs because of my race and gender, my participation in dialogues regarding religion and LGBTQ+ individuals was limited due to assumptions individuals had about me. My spirituality and character were automatically rejected because it was assumed that my Christian identity influenced me to hate the LGBTQ+ community. While I understood and learned from these experiences, I realized that assumptions yield muted voices and invisibility, which makes it impossible for compassion-based tolerance to exist.

As an individual who has been tolerated without compassion (that is to exist without acknowledgement, respect, and power), I strive to listen before I speak and to find connections more than I find differences. Tolerance in dialogues highlights the unspoken similarities between individuals. Have we as humans experienced similar forms of trauma? Oppression? Joy? Moreover, I understand that tolerance means self-compassion and self-acceptance. The more we respect and accept ourselves, the more we can respect and accept others. This is because once we have a sound sense of self, we are not forcing our opinions on others or ignoring their opinions. Instead, we have peace in who we are and we wish to share our perspective with others.

Jesus Christ exemplified compassion-based tolerance. He dialogued with all individuals, heard their stories and perspectives, and loved in spite of the Pharisees’ desire to marginalize certain populations. Many Christians have not embraced what Jesus modeled, and many individuals have assumed that all Christians are like the Pharisees, who sentenced people to death for their differences. Ultimately, successful dialogues about tolerance and Christianity should include the discussion of how individuals view Jesus Christ and what this means for the treatment of LGBTQ+ individuals today. These dialogues should also be sensitive to and acknowledge the hate and hardship LGBTQ+ populations have endured because of their identities. This should also be true for those who have been ostracized because of their faith. This environment would create empathy, which is needed for compassion-based tolerance. Everyone needs love is the foundation for true tolerance. Compassion-based tolerance means that one can love and be loved.


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