How Can You Be More Tolerant?

It can be so easy to hate someone, can’t it?

Someone cuts you off when you want to change lanes, and you say, “I hate that guy.”

You see a news report on television about one person who commits a crime and you shout, “I hate those people.

You hear a candidate for a political party you don’t belong to and you text your friend, “I hate them.”

You pass someone who doesn’t look like you at the mall or when you’re walking down the aisle of the grocery store, and you recoil. “What’s she doing here?”

You hear about someone who practices a different religion from you and your first reaction is, “Heathen. Creep. You are so going to hell.”

You notice someone whose skin is lighter or darker than yours and you wish they would just pack up and go back to wherever they came from.

Or you have your own particular hate for your own particular reason.

If you do, you’re not alone. It seems like just about everyone is busy hating other people, or distrusting them, or disrespecting them. And all that hate and dissing adds up to a whole lot of fear, conflict, destruction and even death. Right now, there are 11 wars raging around the world and way too many conflicts here at home, most of them borne out of hatred and intolerance.

The United Nations is getting people worldwide to walk away from those terrible feelings and the resulting destruction by embracing the International Day for Tolerance on November 16. The UN’s member states have adopted a Declaration of Principles on Tolerance. These principles, among other tenets, urge respect and appreciation for individual forms of expression and “ways of being human.”

“Tolerance recognizes the universal human rights and fundamental freedoms of others,” says the UN. “People are naturally diverse; only tolerance can ensure the survival of mixed communities in every region of the globe.”

The problem is, sometimes hate is so ingrained in us that we don’t think twice about it. It happens automatically and with no second-guessing. And when it does, people get hurt, civil liberties get lost, human rights get trampled and entire human populations get displaced.

How many people do you hate? And what would it take for you to be able to tolerate them? Try this little exercise to find out.

Make a list of all the people, or the kinds of people, you hate or have difficulty tolerating. Who turns your stomach or makes your blood boil? Who can you absolutely not stand? Be honest. This list is for your eyes only.

Now, next to the names of the people you hate, list why you hate them. Give a specific reason for every person or group of people on your list. How does their existence offend or insult you? How specifically did he or she hurt you: your health, wealth, well-being?

Now take a closer look at the reasons you gave for hating. How many of these reasons are actually so unforgivable that they’re worth carrying around with you for the rest of your life as a hateful grudge, ready to be activated at any moment? And how many of those can you not just tolerate, but learn to understand?

Of course, some crimes against humanity are truly horrible and perhaps totally unforgivable. But when I’ve done this exercise myself, I’ve discovered not that I hate the person as much as the thing they do. When I was robbed, I didn’t hate the thief, but of course I hated the thievery. When I look at the actions that my political opposites take in Congress or in my state legislature, I really hate a lot of them. But the people themselves? I don’t like them much. But I could be in a room with them and not take a swing at them.

How can you be more tolerant, and actually be nice to the people you think you hate? Try this:

1) Introduce yourself to someone who looks different than you do and maybe just makes you feel uncomfortable if not downright intolerant. It probably wouldn’t take more than 5 minutes for you to find common ground. Differ on politics? Talk about sports. Both have pets? Exchange information about how you train them. You’re not looking to make new best friends, just to find the common thread between your life and someone else’s.

2) Visit different countries—or neighborhoods. One way I’ve significantly broadened my horizons is by traveling widely, especially to countries where I don’t speak the language or “rule the roost,” as it were. I grew up in a very white, blue collar suburb of Detroit, where it seemed the more insular people were, the less tolerant they were. Now, I’m lucky to live in a diverse metropolitan area that’s a real melting pot of people who speak many languages and represent many cultures.

3) Watch a movie that promotes tolerance. Invictus, about Nelson Mandela and the way he kept whites and blacks in his cabinet when he became president of South Africa, is very inspiring.

4) Read a book. Start with The Power of Tolerance, an exploration of what it means to answer conflict with a call for tolerance. Is tolerance a way of resolving conflicts or a means of sustaining them? Does it transform conflicts into productive tensions or does it perpetuate underlying power relations? Open your mind to new ways of thinking about tolerance.

5) Create a support group. If you would like to see more peace, civility and tolerance in the world, you’re certainly not alone. Pull together a diverse group of people in your community and figure out where you can collaborate to make tolerance a value that’s widely embraced.

6) Get therapy. If you are a  deep-seated “hater,” consider whether you need professional help to overcome these destructive feelings.

7) Put yourself in the place of someone you hate. Can you at all understand how it makes someone feel to know that you hate them? Try.

8) Find out why someone hates you. Do you think you’re the object of someone’s hate yourself? Is there any way to find out why? It could be very enlightening to examine your own behavior from the perspective of someone who finds YOU as intolerable as you find them.

9) Hate the action, not the person. I will always hate rape, murder, the destruction of the planet and cruelty to animals. And it will always be difficult to forgive the people who do these things. But I don’t want my hatred or intolerance to erode my core values.

There are 7 billion people on the planet. Odds are, I won’t agree with most of them at any given time. I’ve learned to live with that.

Related
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152 comments

Sonia M

Thanks for sharing

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Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Antony M.
Antony M2 years ago

noted

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Virginia Belder
Virginia Belder2 years ago

ty

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Ba H.
Ba H2 years ago

hate is such a strong emotion. i feel you can't truly hate someone unless you first loved them

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marsha maxwell
marsha maxwwell2 years ago

I agree with Edith B., I am struggling now to be more tolerant to someone who used to like me, but now seems to hate me.

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Edith B.
Edith B2 years ago

I have only hated one person in my life, and was so relieved when I finally gave up the hatred because it harmed me and did not affect him. Hatred is a wasted emotion, and only harms the one who hates.

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Aaron Bouchard
Aaron Bouchard2 years ago

thank you

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Aaron Bouchard
Aaron Bouchard2 years ago

thank you

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Aaron Bouchard
Aaron Bouchard2 years ago

thank you

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