Tolerance

Some friends and I were discussing how we learn tolerance and how to respect another
person’s narrative or personal “truth”.

One friend referred to a quote by Desmond Tutu about how we are only truly human
when we are together. We have a frame of reference for our humanity when we are together.

The other piece I see when we talk about tolerance is our human tendency to categorize
and label things to understand them. We put people in boxes to try and understand them. “Oh, I
understand you because you’re this or that.” (Fill in the blank).

It takes time and patience to sit down, get to know someone, listen to a person’s
narrative, and understand where a person is coming from. It’s easier and less time-consuming to
“think” we understand by labeling and categorizing.

Labeling and categorizing have their place and help us function as humans in our world.
We don’t have the brain power or time to spend getting to know every person in every encounter.
My thought is rather than using categories and labels as end points when we file people or ideas
into “boxes”, we work to see them as beginnings, places to start with someone or start with an
idea. “I know this about you, tell me more about what you’d like me to know.”

When we categorize a person into one way to understand him or her, we diminish the
whole person, and in turn, we diminish ourselves. Our world becomes smaller, we become
smaller.

Humans are complex, multi-dimensional, and unpredictable (as in one box doesn’t dictate
how someone thinks and feels about all topics), and once you “think” you know someone or
understand his or her narrative, you don’t—because it changes as the person changes.

I’m not a category. I’m not a group. I’m not a belief. I can be part of each of those, AND
one of those isn’t the whole me. I’m me with complex beliefs, emotions, passions, preferences,
dislikes, opinions, non-opinions, likes, loves, hates, desires, positives, negatives, vulnerabilities,
flaws, strengths, and wishes. Please don’t pretend you know me because you know a few things
about me. There are no certainties about me, and if I don’t fully know myself, how can you
possibly know me? Or judge me based on one thing you’ve observed?

Don’t smother me in a box. Give me space. Give yourself space to breathe and expand.

I’m not a category. I’m not a group. I’m not a belief. I can be part of each of those, AND
one of those isn’t the whole me. I’m me with complex beliefs, emotions, passions, preferences,
dislikes, opinions, non-opinions, likes, loves, hates, desires, positives, negatives, vulnerabilities,
flaws, strengths, and wishes. Please don’t pretend you know me because you know a few things
about me. There are no certainties about me, and if I don’t fully know myself, how can you
possibly know me? Or judge me based on one thing you’ve observed?
Don’t smother me in a box. Give me space. Give yourself space to breathe and expand.