Tolerance and understanding

Tolerance and understanding


A free person in a free society is able to tolerate other individuals’ behaviour. A society cannot be free if another individual is not allowed to be different, in any way. Moreover, if one does not tolerate the other, how could the other tolerate the one? It is a mutual responsibility.

Nevertheless, tolerance has been severely misunderstood from both moderate and extreme sides. To tolerate does not mean to accept, to tolerate does not mean to understand. A nuisance can be tolerated, but a person might as well ask the other to adapt her or his behaviour to make the nuisance more bearable, or not existent at all. Many heinous crimes are being tolerated today, but would they be accepted if they were in our back yard? And some things need to be tolerated, because they are simply not always understood by everyone.

Less Judgement, More Tolerance

Less Judgement, More Tolerance

It’s easy to judge a person carrying strange clothes and walking in a strange way. It’s easy to judge a person who talks strange, speaks a different language or has different beliefs. But if we would judge each other so much, how could we live with each other? One person may be very quiet, the other may be very loud. So what? Perhaps that person likes to be quiet, perhaps that person does not choose to be quiet but has underlying reasons to be quiet. And the person that is loud, perhaps she or he needs attention, perhaps she or he is just used to being loud. That’s why we need tolerance, it should be tolerated, even if we wouldn’t understand where the behaviour is coming from.


Combined with tolerance comes understanding. A behaviour that is understood is much easier to be tolerated. Why does a cat jump up a tree? Why does the dog bark at the mail deliverer? Why do religious people pray and non-religious people don’t? Find out, I’d say, and be a more knowledgeable person than you are now. Because it gives many insights into human behaviour, but not the least important: your own behaviour.

Understanding other behaviours means reflecting on your own behaviours. Why do I do this, and another person something different? Perhaps there is a reason why that other person responds to me in this way, and it could be changed by changing my own behaviour. This is what understanding does, and this is how understanding enhances tolerance.



People build virtual walls around themselves for a reason. Other people are often too judgemental. In order to protect her- or himself, a person never shows her or his true self at first sight. Therefore, to reach understanding, a person has to do more than only look at the first appearance. A person has to do more than judge within the usual framing. A quiet person is not necessarily shy. A shy person is not necessarily quiet. A shy person does not choose to be quiet and another person may just prefer to listen first, and talk later. Conversely, a loud person may be ready to listen, or she or he just likes to listen to her- or himself.

Each person is an island to discover, so don’t pass that island before exploring it first, or don’t judge at all. Tolerate what should be tolerated, but anything that could be tolerated should not necessarily be tolerated. I understand a thief stealing my phone completely, considering her or his troublesome personal situation, whatever that may be; no job, no family… but that does not make stealing right. Should stealing be accepted? No. But it should be understood.

Understand, understand what and how to tolerate, and don’t judge what or whom you don’t understand.

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