I hate tolerance

Randy was my hairdresser for years … even before I had my first child.

I remember when I first told him that I planned to homeschool. James was less than a year old when I made that decision.

Randy and Russell have lived together and been partners for  years, having met and started dating before I married. And they are still together today … a year and a half after my own marriage hit the wall and fell into bloody shards all over the floor of my life. Randy and Russell are both incredibly talented, giving, warm and wonderful people.  Over two decades have passed since we first met. Through all of our moves and theirs, I still remain on Randy’s Christmas list. I think I have every single card and Christmas letter I have ever received from him.  I’m thankful to be considered a friend and call both of them my friends, though we haven’t visited face to face in years.

Not long after James was born, I decided that I wanted to homeschool our children.

I don’t remember the exact conversation,  now twenty-one years ago. But, I remember the many times I sat in his chair, him behind me with scissors in hand …. snips of hair continuously falling to the floor. I do remember that he later wrote me a letter and apologized, wondering if he had offended me.  I had not found the right way to answer his question … so I had been silent.
What I do remember about his questioning my decision to homeschool is his words …

“How will they learn tolerance?

I’ve ALWAYS been one to spout off at the mouth. And you can ask me about just about any topic, because I (THINK) I know everything. LOL   I’ve been quick to speak what is on the tip of my tongue … sometimes to my benefit, but more often than not, to my detriment. But, I’ve learned through the years (of walking around with my foot jammed down my throat, my spiritual tongue tied up to the physical tongue of the shoe that is filling my mouth) that I should think through my thoughts and be careful in how I word my answers … especially on topics that I am passionate about, because often, those are the topics that I want my answer to make an impression. I want to make a difference and I can’t do that if I have completely offended and alienated others in the conversation.

So, even today, I am slow to reply or respond to some topics or about some situations.  I’m quick to text back or reply to an email …. UNLESS, the subject matter takes some thinking through. 

So, I didn’t answer Randy that day … not in a thorough way…
not in a knee-jerk, gut reaction, pour out my heart way …
… but his question from twenty years ago has
hung in my soul like a ghost.

Dictionary.com says
Tolerance: a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward those whose
opinions/practices/race/religion/nationality/etc., differ from one’s own.

Tolerance. The word is used today in a positive light, as a character trait that we should all exhibit. During the month of November (2010), the state of Georgia chose the word tolerance as their Character Word of the Month. Seeing this word printed on the newsletter that came home from Joy’s school …..
brought back to the forefront of my mind
ONE of the reasons that I do not like
the government school system.
This newsletter …
this character word
was a reminder for me of the foreboding question
asked of me by a friend
one afternoon
some twenty plus years ago.

“How will  they learn tolerance?”

Here are Noah Webster’s words:
TOL’ERANCE, n. [L. tolerantia, from tolero, to bear.]
The power or capacity of enduring.
Ahhhh… there it is. “Endurance”
Noah Webster’s antique definition
is the one that people have embedded in their minds today.

When people talk about tolerance, I hear:
“I do not have to like you to tolerate you.”
I see: I can tolerate you …. endure being around you …..
while I sit beside you with my arms crossed and my mind made up
that you are
wrong/stupid/foolish/politically incorrect/academically lacking/racially inferior ….
(you fill in the blank with a juvenile or an adult word/phrase).

THIS “tolerance” is not my calling.
In fact, this “tolerance” is one of the reasons that I did not want my children
to attend a government school.

I can say that I am personally (slimly) tolerant of my dog’s incessant whining
when she is on the deck and would rather be inside the house.
Yes, I endure her whining.
And I am tolerant of the hole in my favorite pink, fuzzy socks
that I will replace at some later date.
I am also tolerant of a van that continues to sputter today
and skip tomorrow.

But, tolerant of people?
No. Not me.
As a Christian, I am not called, asked or expected to be tolerant.

This is MY coexist bumper sticker … my tolerance emblem.
I’ve just not been bold enough to have any printed.
But, it goes straight to the heart of this emotional issue.
And it quotes verses that tell me, as a Christian, how I am to live.

As a Christian, I am expected to
“L.O.V.E  one another.”
female. male. toddler. child. teen. adult. Muslim. Jew. Christian. Agnostic. murderer. thief. liar. adulterer. banker. school teacher. pastor. exotic dancer. homosexual. heterosexual. bisexual. African American. Asian. European. Middle Eastern. mentally ill. socially elite. rich. median. poor. kind and gracious. greedy and mean. stinky
or clean.
love them all.

Do I always do this? No. Do I do it well? Absolutely not.
BUT, I am always thinking about it. I am making an effort.
And my children will tell you that I often use the phrase, “love them where they are.”

Because that’s what we all need.
Acceptance …. where we are and for who we are … right now.

For who am I, if I only favor those like “me.”
The Bible points out  (Matt 5:46) “For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet your brethren
only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so?”

And so, twenty years later, let me answer your question:
“How will they learn tolerance?”

I don’t want my children to be tolerant, Randy.
I want more than that from them
I want them to love.

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