“It’s a universal law—intolerance is the first sign of an inadequate education. An ill-educated person behaves with arrogant impatience, whereas truly profound education breeds humility.”
~ Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
We don’t get to choose to whom it’s virtuous to be intolerant.
We don’t get to decide that some people are simply unworthy of rights, of compassion, of basic human consideration. We don’t get to decide that we are somehow gifted the ability to rise above a selected “other” and stand able to pour scorn, abuse and bile upon their heads.
“Tolerance isn’t about not having beliefs. It’s about how your beliefs lead you to treat people who disagree with you.” ~ Timothy J. Keller
It’s not about being weak in the face of evil. It’s not about meekly accepting injustice or bigotry. It’s not a case that we have to accept that which is unacceptable. It’s simply about playing the ball and not the man.
Many years ago, my friends and I were walking into a pub in South West London when a man pulled a knife on the last of us to enter, demanding money. How should my friend have responded? With violence? Fear?
My friend smiled, a big open smile which completely disarmed his attacker. “You’re alright, mate,” the attacker said, letting him pass untouched.
I once had a colleague who took a strong disliking to me. I truly don’t know why this began but I do know that responding to her pettiness and meanness with more of the same did nothing to resolve the issue. Neither did it win me any sense of justice or peace.
One day I decided to be unfailingly nice to her. On every possible occasion I would smile, thank, compliment and generally be pleasant to her. I don’t believe she suddenly liked me any more. She did, however, stop her sniping and criticism.
The world is divided. Our own society is divided. That which binds us together as humans, as nations, as communities, even as friends and families weakens almost inexorably.
How shall we respond? Shall we deepen the divisions through squaring up to those who oppose us, projecting our own hatreds upon them, accusing them of those attitudes and bigotries which we, ourselves, are now displaying—or shall we try something different?
Arguing with idiots, after all, often leaves onlookers confused as to who the idiot actually is. Fighting hatred, real or imagined, with more hatred, will simply cause the hated to hunker down in their own belief systems, behaviours and attitudes.
If you want something to change, model it.
“Be the change that you wish to see in the world” ~ Gandhi
Haven’t we humans hated for long enough already? Has it brought us to where we’d like to be? Doesn’t everyone who ever hated anyone believe that they have good cause? Are you really, truly, unarguably so special that you’re any different to all the other haters in the history of the world?
You won’t soothe hatred with hatred. You won’t right wrongs with wrongs. You won’t change minds with insult or assault. You won’t make a better world by “unfriending” all those people who dare to take a different view.
Be the person you’d like your opponent to become and draw him toward you, gently, with a handshake, with kindness and a smile.
Author: Paul Hughes
Image: Elephant Instagram
Editor: Travis May