Author Jonathan Noyes
Published on 10/05/2020
Tactics and Tools

What Do You Mean by Tolerance?

Jon discusses how the word “tolerance” has been redefined in order to silence some viewpoints.


Now, I want to just briefly touch on this. It’s called the trick of tolerance, and I think it’s important because oftentimes I think one of the reasons why relativism has become so popular is because of the fear, or the awkwardness, of saying that we think we’re right while others are wrong—where we’re afraid of being labeled intolerant, is what it is. This fear, I think, is unjustified because people are confused about what tolerance actually is.

I’m just going to fly through these two definitions, but this makes me sad, right? When you get called “intolerant,” it doesn’t make you feel good. But maybe you’re holding up to a certain belief. Maybe you’re saying abortion is wrong, or maybe you’re saying marriage is for one man and one woman, or maybe you’re saying Islam is false, or maybe you’re saying anything else about many of the social issues that we’re wrestling with as a society and a culture today. You get labeled as intolerant anytime you take a moral stand, it sometimes feels like. But it’s a misunderstanding and a misapplication of the definition, the true definition, of tolerance.

Culturally speaking, we want to believe that tolerance is total agreement with people, accepting of all ideas. More than accepting, it’s actually lent itself now to affirming all ideas. But the real definition—and this is one for you guys to think about—of tolerance is to recognize and respect others’ beliefs and practices without sharing them. That’s key—without sharing them. To bear or put up with. To put up with someone or something not necessarily liked. That’s important for us to understand.

Next time somebody says that you’re intolerant, ask them what they mean by “intolerant.” Because in order for me to tolerate something, I have to not enjoy it. I have to not agree with it. I have to not like it. That’s the very definition of tolerance.