Words and Phrases to Retire: Tolerance

Karl H Christ
2 min readAug 7

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Tolerance is not a positive word, despite being used for many decades as though it is. It’s commonly been promoted as a model for behavior towards minority groups. Racial tolerance is the most common usage, but it’s been applied towards immigrants, LGBTQ people, and others, as the model for how we should behave and treat people.

That is wrong.

We should not be tolerant. Being tolerant is not good.

Tolerating things, or people, is not a virtue. To tolerate something is to grudgingly accept it, to allow it to exist despite wishing it didn’t. We only tolerate bad things. We tolerate horrible weather, bloodsucking bugs at a barbecue, itchy underwear, and assholes that blast their music on bluetooth speakers at the gym instead of wearing headphones like civilized humans, or at least turning it down when other people are in there.

To say that we should be tolerant of different people means in essence that we should accept that they have a right to exist however much we hate them and wish that they didn’t. The implication of promoting tolerance is that there is a default status of dislike, of hatred and disdain. To exercise tolerance is to simply shut up and allow someone to exist without unleashing your hate upon them.

Tolerance is not embracing, it is not understanding, and it is certainly not loving. You might tolerate bad behavior from someone because you love them, like if they’re being intolerant and hateful, but that’s hardly here or there.

Instead of being tolerant, in the ways that it is often promoted, like towards people of other races, cultures, and sexual or gender identities, we should be understanding and, ideally, loving towards them. We should not hate, nor should we tolerate, but instead love one another. Unless someone is in fact awful, like if they’re hateful and intolerant, then we should hate and not tolerate them. Some people don’t deserve our tolerance, but many deserve much more.

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