Commentary

Extra Credit: Exploring Tolerance

Extra Credit: Exploring Tolerance

Featured Photo Credit: Definition from Oxford Languages.

While the Oxford Language definition does form a foundation for understanding the meaning of the word ‘tolerance’… and in light of the tragic events that happened in Buffalo at a Jefferson Avenue grocery store (and among far too many other examples as well)… I believe it’s time to share some thoughts about something near and dear to my heart. There are posts about the issue of tolerance I wrote 20 years ago that are probably still floating around the internet.

The specific behavior of tolerance is one I’ve studied for decades as an oncology nurse and psychotherapist. The ability to live harmoniously in a world full of people whose point of view may be diametrically opposed to your own is a lifelong challenge. But it also is a skill and behavior developed only by those willing to be rigorously honest with themselves.

So why am I writing a post about tolerance on a football blog?

For one thing, anyone who has read my babble over the last 20 years would likely expect this from me. There are times when events in the world compel me to communicate my thoughts. From my view, part of the responsibility of being an old person is to pass along wisdom gained from being alive long enough to still have a few things floating around in our desiccating brains.

I don’t pretend to have all the answers regarding the issue of tolerance. However, I do have some observations to make regarding the changes I’ve witnessed in the ability to use and promote tolerance over my six+ decades of life experience.

Photo from our yard, 2011.

It seems like tolerance is a behavior that is poorly understood and inadequately addressed in popular psychology. It also appears to this observer that there is a significant change in our aggregate level of tolerance as a society these days. The extremes in political thinking we see in our culture today are a direct reflection of our collective intolerance of people who either appear, or behave in a manner inconsistent with our thinking about how people should conduct their lives. Wow. Aren’t we special.

How on earth did we get to this place where people literally cannot carry on civil discourse regarding ANY issue of the day? We are clearly in a cultural meltdown regarding our ability to communicate with respect and dignity for and toward one another. And from this cataract-filled point of view… there is a crisis level lack of tolerance being displayed as evidenced by repeated and escalating episodes of gun violence and worse.

When did we stop caring about one another?

The only way my brain works in this situation is to capture those type of questions and write about what I see regarding the ramifications of burgeoning levels of social intolerance. And I see plenty.

Social media shines light in the corners of our minds in ways many of us don’t realize. Twitter, with all its warts and farts, is a gold mine of data in terms of getting a good gauge on collective levels of tolerance.

What’s most disturbing to me as a retired psychotherapist is I’m seeing a stark lack of self-awareness on social media regarding the other issue of the day…

Tone.

If you’ve read this far in the post and haven’t puked, sit tight. There’s even more babble coming about how poorly we perform at understanding the importance of how one’s tone impacts perception and communication on social media. Again, from Oxford Languages via google.com:

Tone is one of the most obvious behaviors where we often lack self-awareness. When someone says they don’t like the way we say something, it might be time to use our two ears and zip the pie hole. What too many people refuse to accept is that tone is determined by the receiver as much or arguably even more than by the sender.

Deciphering tone is a gold mine for psychotherapists.

Red flags fly when the tone regarding what is being said is inconsistent with the content of what is being said. In other words, people will call bullshit when they see it. This is especially true on social media, where there is new meaning being established for keyboard warriors of all kinds, all day, every day.

One would think social media might provide a platform for learning about cultural differences in a positive way. Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth. Instead of using opportunities to demonstrate tolerance, way too often we find ourselves in a defensive posture instead of an objective one.

In an effort to throw a small pebble into an ocean full of turmoil, I’m going to post my thoughts about issues like tolerance and life in general from time to time. Some of you may have seen me refer to these writings as my “Extra Credit” series over the years. You’ve been warned.

Editor’s babble: You can also find me blabbering on Twitter @RobynMundyWYO.

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