Tolerance means to tolerate or put up with differences. It means showing respect for the race, religion, age, gender, opinions, and ideologies of other people or groups. This concept means different things to different people, but it is when something is disagreeable that tolerance is expected, and in more politically correct cultures, demanded.
There are many different ways to show tolerance. A person might fully disagree with others on any issue from religion to same sex marriage, while at the same time respecting those with different opinions and treating them with dignity and respect. Disagreement alone does not equal intolerance.
One problem is the fact that this respect is sometimes one-sided. Those who disagree with a particular issue must respect the opinions of those who advocate it, but some advocates feel justified in labeling those who disagree with hateful terms, and vice versa. People on both sides of an issue must be tolerant of each other.
When it comes to controversial issues, tolerance may also represent a “let’s agree to disagree” stance. It does not mean that a person has to accept or embrace words, actions, or ideas that are against his or her values or beliefs. It simply means that each person agrees to respect the other’s right to his or her feelings on the matter. When both parties have expressed their opinions, and it is obvious that neither is likely to change position, agreeing to disagree is often the most amicable outcome.
Some degree of tolerance is necessary in any civilized society, but it is not realistic to believe that all people can achieve it completely on every issue. It goes against human nature, or the instinctive impulse of some to pull away from people or things that are different or unknown. Putting up with differences is a learned attribute, a virtue that requires honest effort on the part of every person. It takes time to develop, and it also takes commitment.