Tolerance – Friend, Foe, or Forgotten Concept?


Today’s news brought word that Roger Ailes died. Among the limited reporting I caught was the playing of audio clips from some of his remarks. This statement really struck a chord with me:

Tolerance is a two-way street.
Roger Ailes

Two-Way Street

In American society today, “willingness to listen to different opinion” seems be a topper for a lot of people’s limit lists. Even people I know who consider themselves open minded, clear thinking, and logic loving draw lines in their personal sandbox against really listening to someone who thinks differently.

A person may be accused of being unaware (i.e. check your privilege) or in disagreement that they are harboring a limit (i.e. don’t appropriate my culture, your sources are no good), but what’s really happening is an intolerance to allow the other person to think differently. The discourse seems to be only one way – my way – and what you say/think/do is just flat out wrong, therefore intolerable.

In addition to specific limit list items, people now express intolerance based even on the size of another person’s sandbox. What do I mean? Well, a global perspective is considered much better than a regional one, which is a step above a parochial one. The bottom of the sandbox scale is the personal perspective.

Yet the personal perspective actually creates the shifting dune base from which we all launch our opinions.

Limits – Everyone Has Them

Have you ever considered your personal list of limits? Perhaps you have aversion to pain beyond a pinprick, little to no patience with know-it-alls, or fierce loyalty to a specific sports team. Maybe you eschew genetically modified organisms, religious convention, or chewing bubble gum on Tuesday. You may wail and gnash your teeth at the power hungry politicians plotting to rule the world.

We all have limits, or parameters that inform our responses. Some are based on established historical teachings while others accept only personal experience or first-hand knowledge as a trustworthy foundation.

Regardless of how we build our lists, I’ve noticed a disturbing trend in social ‘discourse’ lately. Too many citizens are pounding down someone else’s opinion based on their own limits. It’s behavior totally counterproductive to encouraging diversity.

Charity Above All

Here’s the thing. We don’t get to define or judge other people’s limits based on our own. If I’m not liberal enough for you, or you’re not conservative enough for me, our positions don’t give us the right to judge each other. Our disagreements must be handled from a place of loving patience and care.


I’ll tolerate you if you say you love me.
I’ll tolerate you if we think alike.
But if you quote a source I don’t agree with
I’d rather that you off and ‘take a hike’!
I’ll listen only if you’re thinking my way,
agreeing to my every wit and whim.
Your mention of a fact I find appalling
confirms for me you’re really very dim.
Oh wait, you say you hear what I am saying?
And though you see it different – that’s okay?
Perhaps because true tolerance obeying,
you’re on the road already that’s “two- way”

What do you think about the opening quote? Has tolerance gone too far? Not far enough? Tell us about a time you saw it play out right by leaving a comment below.

Wishing You a Rhyme-Loving, Two-Way Day!


  1. Suzanne Martikas

    I find this to be a timeless topic.
    As I have worked very hard to tolerate friends and family that are increasingly harsh in reactions and opinons on homelessness. I have taken deep breaths and given much thought to words before speaking.
    Reading more about compassion and being able to sit with other people’s discomfort and inability to be kind or have empathy I now believe these opinons are more about what they are afraid to feel. In their lives and souls they may not have had a hand up or loving compassion. Their anger may be misplaced. I have decided to gently state my opinion and offer my view. And as I walk away I will offer a silent prayer right then again for them to find the type of peace that opens up their hearts to be able to be present with the suffering of others.
    I love the poem. Thank you Paula.

    1. rhymelovingwriter

      I love your response Suzanne! Particularly the part about compassion and being able to ‘sit with’ other people’s discomfort. The truth is we often don’t know what has motivated someone else’s response or opinion. It seems, from the way things are reported, that most people feel justified in their own responses but aren’t willing to extend that same courtesy to others.
      I’m pretty sure I exasperate many when I don’t swallow hook, line, and sinker all that is fed to us today as ‘truth’ or settled. It’s one of the things I love about being older – lived experience often reveals things to be other than how they’re portrayed initially or in a limited sound bite.
      I’m glad you like the poem. Thank you for taking time to engage!

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