“Tolerance and compassion are qualities of fearless people.” – Paulo Coelho
“Compassion and tolerance are not a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength.” – Dalai Lama
Is tolerance actually fearless? Is tolerance a sign of strength? I am inclined to say no. I suggest we aim higher.
In western liberal societies, tolerance has been proclaimed as a solution to addressing the pluralistic values and consciences that arise when individual rights and freedoms are protected. Yet there are a couple problems with tolerance. Tolerance does not foster union; it is a symbol of power, laden with a sense of superiority. It does not support oneness, rather it sustains otherness and fragmentation. In other words, tolerance falls in tension with the very essence of yoga.
The irony of tolerance is that it is paradoxically intolerant of intolerance. A free society cannot tolerate certain behaviors. The tragic recent black church shooting in Charleston, SC was fueled by racial intolerance. In a free society, intolerance cannot be tolerated if it is doing harm and impinging on the freedoms of others. Tolerance itself also maintains elements of disdain and judgment, though these sentiments are cleverly cloaked in a veil of virtue. While this sentiment may aim to reduce certain forms of outward conflict in our wider society, it does not appear to be compatible with a sacred yogic space.
Amidst a free society full of diversity, how do we foster sacred yogic spaces that maintain the essence of union? How do we more effectively extend compassion?
Whether you are Buddhist, Hindu, Catholic, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Atheist, Agnostic, or anything else – I accept you.
Whether you are gay, bisexual, asexual, polyamorous, monogamist, transgender, queer, straight, or you simply don’t know because gender and sexuality can be really confusing – I accept you.
Whether you’ve made mistakes or you’re still making mistakes, yet you are truly owning your truth, learning, and trying with integrity in your heart – I accept you.
You have a right to remain sacred. As do I. We all do. For this reason, I accept you.
We are all a part of a much larger whole in which we are inextricably intertwined. Aware of this, I accept you.
Acceptance and compassion are qualities of fearless people. Compassion and acceptance are not signs of weakness, but a sign of strength.
To live in union, choose acceptance and compassion.
Photo Credits: Rebecca Santelia, Jen Smith