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What is Tolerance?

Sherry Holetzky
Sherry Holetzky

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.

Respecting the race, sex and opinion of others is known as tolerance.
Respecting the race, sex and opinion of others is known as tolerance.

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.

Tolerance can help promote a more positive community atmosphere.
Tolerance can help promote a more positive community atmosphere.

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.

Discussion Comments


I was looking for a definition of tolerance, as I heard a minister preaching on it yesterday, and I was in agreement with some of what he was saying. I have enjoyed reading the article as well as the posts. We need to learn that tolerance has to be practiced by all parties involved in the conversation. It is like one of the posts stated: It is one-sided when it comes to some discussions and especially when it comes to homosexuality. The world, in everything, is trying to make everyone intolerant if they disagree with this.

I will stand for God on this issue until I am called home. I do not believe that any person should be treated badly because of their race, sexuality or belief, but nor should I have to agree with it. God's teachings are to love one another, just as he does, but we are not to love or tolerate any sin - those things that are against God, his word or his direction for mankind. We are to serve him all the days of our life.


Tolerance need not be submission. Tolerance need not be acceptance. Tolerance is necessary, even if it is one way, to maintain some form of civilization.


@indemnifyme: The issue is so much bigger than whether or not the pastor of a church performs a same-sex marriage. It is a free-speech matter, and those churches are campaigning for what they believe about what marriage is--just as the gays are campaigning for what they want it to be.

You want freedom of speech for gays, but not everyone who believes that marriage specifically is not something that should be changed. Don't you realize that is hypocrisy?


I think tolerance should definitely be taught in all of our public schools. I've seen several newspaper articles about children being "bullied to death" by other children. These kids are bullied so much for being different some how, they end up killing themselves. I think that some classes about tolerance could really help this.

And even in areas that don't have this specific problem, tolerance classes couldn't hurt. Most people have to interact with people who are different than them at some point in life, after all.


@indemnifyme - Same-sex marriage is a very tricky one, because some people really do have sincere religious objections to it. Many of them feel that if they are tolerant of same-sex marriage, it's almost the same as endorsing it. So it is tricky, as you said.

I personally think that tolerance is great, but where do you draw the line? For example, some people view the treatment of women in the Middle East as a "cultural difference" we should respect and be tolerant of, while others think we should act against it. Who is right? Who knows?

I think one-sided tolerance is a huge problem in our society today. You definitely cannot "agree to disagree" with a group of people who think you are completely bad and wrong and want to take action to force their views on you.

Same-sex marriage is a good example of something I see as one-sided tolerance. Gay people just want the legal right to get married, and in most places they aren't trying to push churches to perform these kinds of weddings if they don't want to.

However, in my area, many churches have campaigned against legalizing same-sex marriage, even if they don't have to participate. So, the people who are for legal same-sex marriage are tolerant of the other side, but the other side isn't very tolerant of them.


This article was helpful but i wish it had more detail.


I was really looking for information on the definition of tolerance when it relates to mechanical engineering, but this article was good, too!


That was well said. Today's world is trying to change the definition of tolerance to mean "You have to accept everything I do and not disagree or it means you hate me." That's ludicrous. I thoroughly enjoyed this post.


Well there is lot of effects of tolerance that we learn how to manage a life. the attitude of any person is also attached with tolerance.


What are the effects of tolerance on human life?

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    • Respecting the race, sex and opinion of others is known as tolerance.
      By: Andres Rodriguez
      Respecting the race, sex and opinion of others is known as tolerance.
    • Tolerance can help promote a more positive community atmosphere.
      By: ryflip
      Tolerance can help promote a more positive community atmosphere.
    • Tolerant people often go out of their way to help others in need.
      By: Alina Isakovich
      Tolerant people often go out of their way to help others in need.