I’m fortunate in that I had a very liberal upbringing. I never thought it was OK to be prejudiced, and I thought differentness and variety were good things. Honestly the hardest time I have with people is when they lack tolerance. I can tolerate anything but intolerance. And yes I do see the hypocrisy there. So blah blah, consenting adults and all that happy crap. It’s not something I had to struggle with.
I want to take this to a deeper level now, and to a greater understanding. There are two aspects of this. One, I have to apply it to people I don’t know and two, I have to apply it to people I know.
It’s popular to say these days something like, “I don’t have to like something in order to accept it.” Thus we draw our attention away from unpleasant things by painting them with this brush. I can easily find a hundred issues that I don’t like but can say I accept: the money and attention some people give to sports; the weather (whatever the weather may be); crime of all sorts; politics of all sorts. And on and on. I can accept and dislike how my son spends his money; the wind chimes next door; my refrigerator; the way my cats are calling to be fed right now (and constantly); my (lack of) height; my age; my reproductive equipment.
I think this is missing the point, or if not that, maybe it’s only about half way to the point. Am I really accepting these things I dislike?
In looking at the meaning of the word accept, only of one definitions has to do with negativity. Accept means to receive with approval or favor, to agree to, to respond affirmatively, to regard as true or sound. The sort of negative word used, reconcile, has the meaning of accepting something not desired. But the other meanings of that word include to win over, to bring into friendship or harmony, to make compatible.
So when I try to live and let live, I want to go beyond acceptance of what other people do. I want to see and understand the good in other people and in what they do.
I doubt I’ll be able to do this with things that seems truly awful. I don’t know why human and animal nature sometimes includes cruelty. I do want to the see the good aspects of the cruel people though.
I get hung up when the people I’m trying to let live influence me a lot. It’s most difficult with the people I spend the most time with. Over and over and over again I strive to change their behavior to make my life more enjoyable and easy. Also with people I’m called to mold and judge. My children, number one, and also when I’m supervising at work. Here I am bound to call to people’s attention the things they do that are wrong (based on my superior experience and judgment) and show them how to do it right. Difficult, difficult, difficult. This calls for a degree of humility I can’t really even imagine.
Maybe tomorrow, but if not tomorrow then soon, I may be asked to do something different at work, and I don’t know what that will be. I’m trying to imagine how I could possibly use this slogan to do better and gain more serenity. Right now it looks like a tremendous muddle and impossible dream.