We are slowly moving towards a fiercely conflict-ridden world in which tolerance is vanishing slowly. Mother India is known largely for tolerance, where people of different cultures, languages, races, religions co-existed for long years, though there were a few incidences of intolerance. There is a difference between toleration as an attitude of individuals and toleration as a practice in the society. Toleration as a personal virtue, but it need not be a practice in the society. For example, after a bloody war or confrontation between parties, convenient arrangements of cohabitation have evolved by sheer fatigue with violence. Hence a tolerant society may well exist, at least temporarily, even in the midst of pervasive attitudes of intolerance.
There are four types of tolerance exist in the society. First, to refrain from interference in the activities of others though one finds them unacceptable to his belief and practice. For example, eating beef may not be acceptable to one, but he tolerates it because he respects the beliefs and habits of others. This is called negative tolerance.
A second conception of toleration exists between two groups, having equal power to interfere. Though they see the activities of one another morally abhorrent, they avoid conflict because of the cost of the ensuring conflict is far too high. They reluctantly accept an arrangement of co-existence. This attitude of resignation is toleration mandated by the balance of power.
The third type of tolerance comes from indifference. There exists disapproval of the activities of others but it is not expressed in an out word manner. People don’t really care about what others do, as long as it does not affect them directly. It is an attitude of live and let live. It exists in liberal and individualistic societies.
The fourth one is just opposite of negative toleration. It is a positive toleration. Parents put up with the weakness of their children. They choose to over look the faults of their loved ones. We endure deep difference in the world-views of our fellow beings because we value fraternity. We put up with disagreeable traits of others, even if we know some power to interfere, simply because we have some positive feeling for others. Here one tolerates the other because one loves the other. A mixer of love, friendliness, fellow feeling is the background that sustains these attitudes. This is not quite recognizing and approving others’ attitudes and actions, but it is taking up an admirable stance towards others, which is a virtue.
We are called upon to build up community, where we respect to world views of others and at the same time over-looking the failings of others. Everyone needs to grow in the understanding and accepting others to build up a society of peace and harmony.
Most Rev. Dr. M. Devadass Ambrose
Bishop of Thanjavur