The Importance of Tolerance in Society

The world is a much smaller place today. Globalization has blurred borders throughout the world. More people from different nations, cultures, religions and lifestyles are working together and living in the same neighborhoods than ever before. Tolerance of each others’ differences is a very important key to keeping peace among co-workers and neighbors.

The importance of tolerance in society can not be emphasized enough in a world where there is one place or another in a state of war. Tolerance’s importance is shown repeatedly in the news where historically taboo ways of life and belief systems are pushing the justice system and governments to recognize their right to exist publicly.

Gay marriage and gay rights have been in the forefront of the news in the United States and other countries for several years now. Religious and conservative groups are trying to make gay people out as monsters who are trying to undermine society. This is an area where a little tolerance would go a long way. There is definitely a middle ground that could be reached on both sides of this argument, if both sides would be more tolerant of the other’s beliefs.

Religious differences are another place where tolerance is very important. How people worship is a very personal thing and someone bashing a person’s religious can start a heated battle very quickly. Everyone has the right to believe the way they want about religion. If there were more tolerance among people there would be few battles over whose religion is right.

There are just a few examples of where tolerance is very important in society. Because people are travelling more and working in different countries, there is a strong need for information about the different cultures that exist. There need to be more schools, workplaces and governments that insist on and teach tolerance.

Youth for Tolerance, a group in Lebanon, one of the most diverse and violent countries in the world, had this to say about tolerance:

“Tolerance, as we define it, refers to the skills we need to live together peacefully. In times of peace, people have a chance to prosper socially, economically and emotionally. Tolerance creates a society in which people can feel valued and respected, and in which there is room for every person, each with their own ideas, thoughts and dreams. This is why we believe tolerance is important: because it is an essential aspect of a healthy, livable society. In fact, it is the only way in which a country as diverse as Lebanon (politically, religiously, economically) can function and use each and every difference to make its people thrive rather than suffer.”, a blog for social change had this to say about tolerance and why it should be taught to our children:

“One of the most important tools a child needs in his or her social toolbox is the ability to be tolerant of others. The world is composed of people from different backgrounds who speak various languages, and follow diverse customs and religions. Any child, whether in the United States or elsewhere, will be exposed to someone who identifies with a faith that is not the same as their own. In today’s society, especially with how globalized the world has become, it is important for children to learn to accept others from an early age. Not only will children become morally strong, but in the future they will have an economic advantage when they respect others from around the world.”

A training program that taught tolerance was created by the Colorado University. An article written about tolerance by this program states:

“The principles of coexistence and tolerance are important as bases for building mutually acceptable relationships between highly diverse communities within a larger society. If the integrative system is to work-that is, if it is to be able to hold a diverse community together as a single entity (for example, a nation state)-there must be a certain level of tolerance between the different religious, ethnic, and/or racial groups living in that state. In the absence of tolerance and willing co-existence, societies will be in perpetual conflict, with each side trying to somehow get rid of the other, either by forcing them to leave (as refugees), through genocide, or by one group completely dominating and de-humanizing the opposing group(s).

How co-existence is structured can vary widely. Generally, there are two approaches–one seeking to minimize or ignore differences between groups, and the other recognizing differences, but honoring each group as valuable and unique. The first is embodied in the concept of the “melting pot,” an idea developed in the United States which referred to the fact that many different nationalities and ethnic groups supposedly “melted together” to become Americans. Until the 1970s or so, the goal of most minority groups was to become integrated into the dominant white society. People wanted to be judged, as civil rights leader Martin Luther King put it, “not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” Thus, the goal for America was to become “color blind”- everyone was to be treated the same, regardless of their race or national origin.”

Each one of these articles present the importance of tolerance and how it can be achieved in society. The importance of tolerance in society cannot be emphasized enough and the only way to achieve true tolerance is through education and open-mindedness.