Tolerance and Self-Reflection

Photo Credit: Mostafa Abdel Samie via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Mostafa Abdel Samie via Compfight cc

“We find comfort among those who agree with us — growth among those who don’t.” –Frank A. Clark

Today I want to talk about tolerance and self-reflection.

Tolerance is easy to talk about but difficult to practice. After all, situations that require the most tolerance and understanding are usually tense or carry a lot of emotional weight. For example, when a car blocks your way at an intersection, even if the car in front of him is stuck, and your path was supposedly clear, it is hard to be tolerant. It is much easier to curse, to throw your middle finger, to go down and slap the other guy silly, to bash his brains out, to…oh I’m sorry, I got carried away. Let’s talk about something else.

I am a member of several online forums. Some of them are about religion (or the lack of it). Some are about politics and government. It is common to see a topic thread that starts out with an interesting thought degenerate quickly into name-calling, bashing and insulting replies. Much blood has been spilled on the supposed shallowness of AlDub compared to Heneral Luna, and why our country is in the sinkhole because more people watch the former than the latter (I prefer to use another “s” word in front of “hole” but this article is about tolerance, after all).

Then the bashers and defenders come out and there is this huge war that leads to much blocking and unfriending. There are also those who watch in the sidelines, not participating, but silently taking sides nonetheless. Amidst all the chaos, there are those precious few who try to see the best of both worlds, or at least rationally consider the other’s ideas.

A little tolerance paves the way for self-reflection, something those damned Jesuits (and I mean that in the most affectionate way) have hammered into me so deeply it would take a billion angels and demons working in tandem to dig it out. I am happy when I see others post meaningful syntheses of opposing ideas instead of adding to the hate and the anger, which does nothing but fuel more of the same.

A friend of mine made a comment that AlDub and Heneral Luna are not necessarily opposing genres and that one was necessarily dumb by enjoying the former but not the latter. Nor is one necessarily intelligent and patriotic by enjoying the latter but totally snubbing the former. They are different in nature, in objective and audience. One does not enjoy tea the same way one enjoys wine, but it is possible to enjoy both. A blogger named Dr. Pinky de Leon-Intal has even used the current craze to educate people about taxation and finance with her article, “AlDub and Philippine Tax Reform,” which I think is a great idea — using a popular phenomenon to get people to read what they normally wouldn’t read at all.

Of course, every idea has an exception and there are things one should never be tolerant about — ideas or practices that trample on others rights, corruption of public officials, degrading or abusive acts, and the like. The acts themselves must be condemned outright, but the people who commit those acts must also be understood instead of being condemned outright — to better understand what led them to think or act that way, and to see how the situation can be prevented or avoided next time.

Just because an idea makes you uncomfortable doesn’t mean it’s wrong. Just because a person is irritating or annoying doesn’t mean he or she doesn’t have a point. Sometimes, one needs to push beyond the discomfort in order to find growth and learning.

A little tolerance and self-reflection can go a long way.

Originally published in Sunstar Davao.

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