The Myth of Tolerance

By Gail D’Aurelio, Ed.D., LMFT

Tolerance is a word that has been overused, overrated and inappropriately applied.  Merriam –Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines tolerance as “a sympathy or indulgence for beliefs or practices differing from or confliction with ones own.”  Unfortunately, tolerance has become synonymous with tolerable defined as “fairly good; endured and capable of being borne.”  This is not a resounding expression of acceptance of people’s differences. Tolerance has become a means for society to continue to be judgmental under the guide of “ok-ness” that can rapidly sink to disapproval, satire, meanness, and emotional and/or physical harassment, intimidation and bullying.

Authentic tolerance is achieved through mutually respectful discussions that include listening and openness to a different point of view to reduce fear and discrimination.  Before true tolerance is to be used in its fullest definition, we must collectively work together to remove the stigma of difference whether this is based on race, gender, religion, or social or emotional deficits. At Sage Day Schools, we stress not only respect, but that compassion for each other is the key to removing cultural binds.  Compassion is defined as a “sympathetic consciousness of another’s distress together with a desire to alleviate it”.

Sage Day has earned a reputation for creating a safe learning environment for our most vulnerable, emotionally fragile students through its philosophy of mutual respect, its anti-bullying policies, and its best practices in conflict resolution. Each student is given a voice to express his or her own opinions in student council, town meetings, in the classroom and in therapy while being encouraged to listen to the responses, and to negotiate mutually fair, cooperative agreements.   Authentic tolerance builds a strong foundation to achieve a civil and just society one child at a time.