I am wrapping up a semester in my Family Foundations class. This class has been spent studying the Proclamation on the Family in detail. Our final unit has been on the importance of defending the sanctity of the family. There is a lot of buzz in the news lately about tolerance and intolerance and bigotry. Oftentimes it seems that tolerance means we are obligated to be accepting of others and that we have no business voicing an opinion or feeling different than another person – for to do that would be “intolerant”. We might be labeled a bigot. Nobody wants to be labeled as a bigot, so often we are cowed by one who might more passionately and aggressively want to get their point across.
I believe tolerance is an overused word. Boyd K. Packer said this about tolerance: “The word tolerance does not stand alone. It requires an object and a response to qualify it as a virtue. … Tolerance is often demanded but seldom returned. Beware of the word tolerance. It is a very unstable virtue.”
If we could for a moment, remove the word tolerance from our vocabulary and replace it with the phrase, “Mutual Respect” – I believe this would be a win-win for both parties. This is to allow both parties an equal sharing of viewpoints. It requires a listening ear and an effort to understand what the other person feels so strongly about. It requires us to “walk a mile in their moccasins”. And if need be, it allows us to make the choice to agree to disagree and still be friends.
Dr. Alwi Shihab, a Muslim scholar said this about Mutual Respect: “To tolerate something is to learn to live with it, even when you think it is wrong and downright evil. … We must go, I believe, beyond tolerance if we are to achieve harmony in our world... We must respect this God-given dignity in every human being, even in our enemies. For the goal of all human relations—whether they are religious, social, political, or economic—ought to be cooperation and mutual respect.”
Tolerance is conditional. One can generally only be tolerant as long as those around them are in agreement. Mutual respect is unconditional and can elevate the integrity of a discussion or debate. It does not force its opinion down another's throat. Mutual respect accepts that the other person is not obligated to see things the way you do. Mutual respect seeks to play fair. Granted, both parties must be willing from the outset to agree to being respectful or our conversation sinks into contentiousness, but isn't Mutual Respect a good goal to aim for? It could change the world. If only.