The Paradox of Tolerance

“Intolerance is itself a form of violence and an obstacle to the growth of a true democratic spirit.” –Mahatma Gandhi

America was founded on the principles of freedom and tolerance of differing beliefs, but we seem to be at a crossroads.  How tolerant can we be to the hate and violence that seems to permeate our media. Dictionary.com defines tolerance as, “The ability or willingness to tolerate something, in particular the existence of opinions or behavior that one does not necessarily agree with.”  The problem is that when we have tolerance of intolerance, the problem doesn’t go away and those who are intolerant become emboldened.  Karl Popper wrote the book, The Open Society and Its Enemies while in political exile during WWII.  The two-volume book was published in 1945.  The book has been called a philosophical defense of the importance of democracy.  One of the points he discusses is the paradox of tolerance.  Popper states, “Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them.  There is a major point here.   Can we be tolerant of intolerance?  How do we change intolerance?  Peace and acceptance of differences depends on us, as a society, coming to consensus on when to be tolerant and when to be intolerant.  To me it comes down to a simple question.  Does the intolerance cause suffering for someone else?  If the answer is yes, someone is suffering due to intolerance, then we need to be intolerant of their intolerance.  If there is no suffering, then it can be tolerated.  I can be tolerant of other’s opinions and beliefs, but if their words, actions or behaviors cause suffering to another person, that becomes intolerable and must be addressed.  Popper goes on to state, “In this formulation, I do not imply, for instance, that we should always suppress the utterance of intolerant philosophies; as long as we can counter them by rational argument and keep them in check by public opinion, suppression would certainly be unwise. But we should claim the right to suppress them if necessary even by force; for it may easily turn out that they are not prepared to meet us on the level of rational argument, but begin by denouncing all argument; they may forbid their followers to listen to rational argument, because it is deceptive, and teach them to answer arguments by the use of their fists or pistols. We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant.”

What would the world look like if every individual spoke out about intolerance which causes suffering?  It is time.  Our future depends on the choices we make today.  Peace can only happen when we are truly tolerant of everyone and intolerance is not tolerated.

Why Do People Hate? What Do We Do About It?

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

The news stories of the past couple weeks have been difficult to watch.  From the war of words with North Korea, to the violent protests in Charlottesville, to the terrorist attack in Barcelona, we have been reminded that change is needed if we as a species wish to survive and experience peace.  We are at a critical point in history and these events are bringing major issues to the forefront.  People are concerned and scared about what the future will hold.  Now is the time to ask if the way we have been doing things is working.  This is not about who is right and who is wrong.  Those are judgements.  This is about asking does it serve us to threaten nuclear war on a country smaller than the size of Mississippi? Does it work to respond to hate with hate? 

There is one thing in common with all people who hate.  ISIS, Neo-Nazis, the KKK, Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump all share one quality.  They are fearful.  They are scared to lose something that they value.  When we look at them as extremely scared individuals who are acting out in fear, it is easier to begin to have some compassion for them.  Hating them will not change them, it will only lead to more hate.  I believe that all people are good at their core.  It is our innate human nature to be giving and caring and loving.  When people hate, it is because they have forgotten who they are.  They have been engulfed by their ego and taken over by fear.  When we begin to become curious about what they are fearful about, we start to understand.  On that level, healing begins as we are able to go under the rhetoric and address the real issues.  It is no longer working for us to hate.  We are all diverse individuals sharing one planet. When we begin to honor that diversity, and look for ways to show love and compassion to those who look and believe differently, the world will be at peace.

Martin Luther King, Jr. left us with many words of wisdom.  Here are two more quotes from him which are just as appropriate now as when he spoke them:

“Have we not come to such an impasse in the modern world that we must love our enemies – or else? The chain reaction of evil – hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars – must be broken, or else we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.”
“We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.”

Are we ready to change?

How Donald Trump is Making America Great Again

“Donald Trump’s a change agent. So am I.” –Ron Johnson

Politics is an area that most people have some opinion about.  Whether you consider yourself an Independent, Democrat or Republican, there are issues that we each care about and we want our political parties to fight for what we believe in.  Whether you like Donald Trump or not, he is currently the President of the United States.  He promised change on the campaign trail and he is delivering by breaking the mold on what it means to be presidential.

This is an exciting time in history.  There are many issues which are pressing and they are going to require urgent action.  Climate change, racism, LGBTQ rights, sexism, immigration, religious freedoms and healthcare are just a few of the hot button issues that are in the forefront of the news, not to mention the rising tension with other countries.  Now, more than ever, it is important for us to look critically at how these issues affect each and every one of us.

When President Trump speaks, or tweets, there seems to be a growing interest in every word.  There is no doubt that President Trump is stirring something in us that is awakening.  Whether you agree or disagree with what he says, it is an opportunity to critically examine what our core beliefs are.  I believe that Donald Trump is the perfect person to be president at this time in history for precisely the change that he is creating.  There have been over 20 large organized protests against him, including the Women’s March, which was the largest protest in American History.  All across the country people are listening to what he is saying and are either defending him or opposing him.  Either way, it is creating conversations.  For many years these issues were swept under the rug and rarely discussed.  Trump is bringing them up and forcing us to critically look at what our values are.  Now, more than ever, we each need to individually decide if at our core, we agree or disagree with what we are hearing.  Then it is time to talk about it.  Have some honest discussions with people who not only agree with you, but those that disagree as well.  For this country to change, we need clarity and we can only become clear when we challenge our prior assumptions.  By talking with someone you don’t agree with and being open to hearing their point of view, it is often surprising to discover that there is more that is agreed upon then disagreed on.  There are many core values that people have regardless of political party.  With all of these discussions around the country we will begin to clarify what our country values.  Once we are clear we can create change as the people.  In order for America to be great again, we need to reclaim our identity.  Our president is giving us daily opportunities to decide what is important.  We have the power to create the change that the Declaration of Independence gives to us:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

America is a great country because of the diversity we have.  It is time we honor differences of opinion and respectfully challenge prior beliefs.  Conversations have the power to create change, and true change happens from the bottom up.  Keep the conversations going!

Are You a Human BEing?

“It is not enough to be busy. So are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?”  Henry David Thoreau

Think for a minute about your daily routine.  How often during the day do you feel rushed or overwhelmed?  Is there a long ‘to do’ list that never seems to end?  A typical day for most people is filled from morning to night with activities and commitments.  When we compare our lives to those of our early ancestors, we have many modern conveniences that were intended to make life easier.  Instead of giving us more quiet time to reflect though, we seem to fill it up with more stressors.  We are bombarded with news and busyness without having time to simply relax and be still.  In his Conversations With God books, Neale Donald Walsch discusses how we call ourselves ‘human beings,’ but many of us rarely take time to ‘be’ with ourselves.  Instead, he says, we should be calling ourselves ‘human doings.’

It is difficult for many people to take time to just be.  We tend to equate how productive our day was with how much we got accomplished.  This is not to say that taking action and doing things is not important, but equally important is time to take care of ourselves.  Many of my clients struggle to give themselves quiet time to just be still.  For some, there is a sense of guilt that comes when they ‘waste’ time in meditation or quiet reflection.  For others, there is a fear of being alone with themselves.  The busyness is a distraction from having to face the demons they have avoided.

To become a ‘human being’ we need to find time to be still.  That ‘being’ time may be meditation or quiet reflection.  It may be walking in nature or painting a picture.  It is time to unplug from our busy lives and to reconnect with our essence.  Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still, and know that I am God.”  When we detach from doingness, we connect to beingness.  If it is difficult to take time to be, this is an area to be explored.  Is it a priority?  If it is something that is being avoided, where does the guilt or fear come from?  Seek support to explore this if necessary.  Instead of avoiding that shadow, face it and go into it.   How would your life change if you took time to truly be a human BEing?