Teaching Tolerance If Not Love

Dalai Lama Edited

We need to be teaching tolerance to our kids, even if we cannot teach them to love others (which we should be doing…but hey, if we aim lower, maybe it’ll take).

Webster’s Dictionary defines tolerance as:

“The ability or willingness to tolerate something, in particular the existence of opinions or behavior that one does not necessarily agree with.”

It doesn’t mean you have to agree, and it doesn’t mean you are compromising your beliefs.  It means you are respecting others because they are human beings, and they deserve it.  I’m not simply talking about religious tolerance, or being nice to “the gays.”   [Sidenote: if you actually say “the gays” go punch yourself in the face.]  I am talking about showing tolerance to all people, because, regardless of your beliefs, they are people too. Honestly, what they do in most cases doesn’t really affect you; so go worry about yourself.

No, that doesn’t mean you need a COEXIST sticker for your car.  It means that you should learn and teach your children to accept others as they are.  Every religion, orientation, belief, occupation, culture, and demographic, has something to offer and something we could learn from. 

Tolerance is sometimes letting people do things their own way even when it affects your child.  The world doesn’t care that you don’t want your kid hearing _________ or knowing _________ exists.  They will hear it and it does exist.  It is better to prepare them to deal with these differences than to have them be at a loss, or worse, think that every way but their way is “bad.” That would make them little assholes, and I can only assume that you want your kid to at least have friends, if not flourish.

I used to work as a criminal defense paralegal (among other things).  It never ceased to surprise me (nor to make me sad) that our Defendants assumed I would be put off, or worse, afraid of them.  Sure, I’m super fantastic at preparing documents and organization, but what I’ve always done best is show individuals respect as fellow human beings.  I show them that a young, blonde, and often most notably to them, white female isn’t nervous and in fact, is genuinely concerned about their well-being.  [Sidenote: Being white is only notable because the majority of our clients are of minority backgrounds.]  It is so sad to me that anyone would be taught that this shouldn’t be so.  Now, I often have the same experience with therapy clients.  I often have to prove that I do not judge their choices and/or circumstances.  They are people, not a list of charges.  They are more than the sum of their circumstances or, in some cases, their poor decisions.  I don’t get to put a bumper sticker on my car and simply say, “I’m not racist.”  I have to prove it, every single day, and uncover the years of discrimination they have faced.  It sucks, and I wish I could do more, but sometimes the only thing I can do is be kind to one person at a time.

If my readers could help me out here and create more, little tolerant people, maybe this task won’t be so huge when our children grow up.

From a co-parenting standpoint, this includes your ex and their family.  My ex and I do not see eye to eye on everything, and neither does his family and I.  I also don’t pretend to agree with everything he does or says, because that teaches the girls nothing.  Instead, the dialogue usually goes something like this:

“I understand that that is how Daddy does things, and I’m glad that works well for him.  However, because our home is different — we have different family members, we work different hours, we have different responsibilities, different priorities (just pick one) — that doesn’t work out for us here.  It is awesome, though, that you get to see how different households handle different things.  Now, you’ll have more to pick from when you are setting up your own household.  God knows, I don’t have all the answers. So, I’m sure he has some strategies that I don’t know, and that you could learn from.


“I can appreciate Daddy’s thoughts on that subject, and they definitely give you another perspective.  It is great for you to learn all kinds of viewpoints, so you can choose one for yourself.  However, I don’t share that belief, and so I will not be doing it that way.

I know sometimes you want to say, “well, if I wanted to do things his way, we’d still be married!” or “that’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard and we are smarter over here than that,” but please don’t.  What your ex does in their house is their business, and you don’t get a say anymore.  You will not be effective in teaching tolerance or how to love others despite your differences if you cannot even show respect to the father/mother of your children.

Now keep in mind, I think every person deserves to have their own beliefs, but I still think people who write checks in the express line should die in a fire.  See?  We all have limits to our tolerance.  I’m just asking you to do your best.  If you are reading this, and working to be the best you can for your kids, I know you are already trying.

Just remember:

“It is no measure of health to be well-adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”
~Jiddu Krishnamurti

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