Posted: Oct 07, 2013 8:00 AM
 
I'm so over the word tolerance that I can't tolerate it anymore. I want my kids to learn to respect differences in the world, not feel they must put up with them. It's time to get rid of this word.

I am SO over the word "tolerance."

Although the dictionary definition of tolerance is:

a fair, objective and permissive attitude toward opinions and practices that differ from one's own

The word tolerate is defined as:

to endure without repugnance; put up with

What tolerance means to me

When I hear the word tolerance, I hear tolerate.

We need to teach our kids that while they may not agree or understand someone, they do need to respect it.

To me, tolerance is basically saying, "I don't like your race, your religion, your sexual preference, your disability — but I'll tolerate you."

I think it's time to get rid of the T-word. We need to teach our kids that while they may not agree or understand someone (or the issues listed above), they do need to respect it. There has to be a better word.

Tolerating tolerance?

Many years ago, before I was a mom, I volunteered for The Museum of Tolerance. It was a meaningful experience, yet even then I had issues with the T-word. I helped teach visitors about the Holocaust but didn't want them leaving with the feeling they should tolerate Jews. Even the Museum's website includes a quote:

"…it is crucial for all of us to give new meaning to the word 'tolerance' and understand that our ability to value each and every person is the ethical basis for peace, security and intercultural dialogue..."

Forget a new meaning, how about just getting rid of the word? Or at least not associate it with people.

As First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt wrote in her article "Tolerance is an Ugly Word" in Coronet Magazine in 1945:

"I do not like the word tolerance.
If you tolerate something, you do not like it very much."

Amen, sister.

Teaching my kids about respect and understanding

At school, my kids (white, Jewish with an agnostic dad) are definitely in the minority. They are surrounded mainly by African American and Hispanic friends along with many who are a unique mix of a variety of races.

Did I teach them to tolerate this diversity? No way. Have they grown up to appreciate and respect the multicultural world they live in? Absolutely.

We explain the importance of agreeing to disagree about issues, as well as respecting others' rights to hold those views no matter how much we disagree.

We talk openly about politics and equal rights. If anything, we open our kids' eyes to the fact that in some ways, we are in the minority because they have only ever known diversity. They ask questions. They wonder why others don't share the same views we do, whatever those may be. We explain the importance of agreeing to disagree about issues, as well as respecting others' rights to hold those views no matter how much we disagree.

One of my favorite college professors taught religion classes where his mantra was, "I'm not asking you to believe it, I'm asking you to understand it."

I am doing my best to instill values like these in my sons so that they grow up to be kind, respectful, understanding adults.

I won't tolerate anything less.

Read more about respecting differences

Why my kids support marriage equality
What Martin Luther King Jr. has taught us
Atheist moms speak out

Topics: diversity

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