Living a Tolerant Life

by Stephen Mills on September 18, 2010


I dream of a world in which everyone chooses their own beliefs, follows their own path, and respects the right of others to do the same.  I want to live in a world where I don’t hear about who is building a mosque where; where I never hear about an obscure Koran-burning nutjob in Florida; where Muslims around the world are not upset and burning flags in response to said nutjob in Florida.  People certainly have a right to do all of that; I just wish enough people didn’t care that nobody else paid any attention; that it was not considered newsworthy.

The terrorists are getting off on all this.  What some people don’t seem to understand is that this is their goal; they are trying to create division and strife. Those who are upset about the mosque are letting the terrorists win.  I would like to see a massive gleaming mosque right next to ground zero.  How about a cathedral and a temple and whatever other place of worship as well built in a circle all around the ground zero site?  To me it shows the difference between us and the terrorists.  It says we don’t murder thousands of innocent people because we disagree with them.  It says we allow people we disagree with to choose their own way and to live right next to us in peace.  That’s what I would do.

Living a tolerant life is not just about others, although it it truly a win-win for everyone.  It’s about yourself.  I truly believe that in order to achieve peace and well-being for yourself, you have to learn to let others be.  If what other people are doing upsets you that much, you are enslaving your own happiness to the actions of others.

In my little suburban neighborhood here in Houston, South Texas, I see all kinds.  I can walk down the street and see a woman completely covered including the head scarf in the middle of oppressive summer heat and the next minute see another woman who is mostly skin and leaving little to the imagination. I see little children, teenagers, and old men and women of all colors and styles.  As I move around the city I encounter incredible diversity of ethnicity and lifestyle.  Yet somehow we all live together in relative peace and harmony.

Being tolerant certainly does not mean that you agree with others.  It does not mean you think they are right or that you approve of what they are doing.  You don’t have to be gay or straight or agree with either lifestyle to dream that the institution of marriage should not a concern of the state or a concern of other people.  I don’t understand why people who get upset about gay marriage don’t see that they are just creating a lot of attention and media presence for that of which they don’t approve.

How can some obscure nutjob in Florida upset Muslims the world over?  What kind of crazy world are we living in?  How can this this idiot impact their lives?  Only because they let him by giving him even one second of their attention.  I don’t agree with him, but I could care less what he does.  I am completely tolerant of him.  Let him alone to shout his insane ramblings into the dark mind swamp in which he lives.

A read an article recently in the New Yorker about Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the president of Iran.  In that article it mentioned that conservative clerics were pressuring him to crack down on the out of control youth of the more liberal northern Tehran.  Their crime?  They were dying their hair blond and other colors.  Seriously?  Do they not see that the kids dye their hair only because of the effect it has on others?  Many parents have never learned this lesson either.

I’m sorry but if you are concerned about the color of other people’s hair, you are a total slave to them.  These clerics who get off on their alleged power are the most enslaved of them all.  You can only be free and achieve peace when you do not get upset with what others are doing.

The degree you try to control another person, is the degree to which you make yourself a slave to their behavior.

I choose not to be a slave to others by getting overly concerned with what they are doing.  I love the diversity of people I see around me all the time.  It tells me I still live in a semi-free place where people are allowed to do their own thing and don’t have to worry about being murdered for it.

For you own sake and for the peace of the world, this is a plea for tolerance.  Think what you want and think it passionately.  Do what you want and do it passionately.  Choose your own beliefs and follow your own path.  Try to see that others are doing exactly the same thing with their own lives and just let them be.  Set yourself free.

What do YOU think?  Leave a comment and join the conversation.


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{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

Ian | Quantum Learning September 18, 2010 at 12:04 pm

Stephen. Thanks for tackling such a difficult topic.

Like you, I would love to live in a world where everyone is respected and valued – and tolerance is clearly an important quality to develop to allow this world to emerge.

The challenge, as I see it, is where are the lines drawn? I can tolerate actions and beliefs of others I don’t agree with, or even particularly like and still respect the person who does those actions and holds those beliefs. There is a limit though and I’m really not sure where that limit is.

To pick one example, I cannot tolerate the taking of the life of another human being – whether by ‘terrorists’ or by government sponsored armies. But I would tolerate, even agree with, taking someone’s life in self defence (or defence of my family) if that was the only way. It’s a contradiction I can’t quite reconcile – a grey area.

And this grey area extends in all directions. Another example, I tolerate and respect people holding different religious or spiritual beliefs to me – but do I tolerate Iranian clerics forcing kids not to dye their hair? Well, in one sense I do tolerate it because I don’t do anything about it and I don’t lay awake at night worrying about those kids .. but I don’t like it and if it directly affected me then it would be a different story.

Sorry if this doesn’t make a whole lot of sense – as I say I hold a lot of contradictions around this, and I thank you for triggering me to think about it .. and now I will lay awake tonight trying to sort it all out for myself.
Ian | Quantum Learning´s last blog post ..Best Attitude For Effective Communication


Stephen Mills September 18, 2010 at 1:04 pm

Hi Ian it actually makes a lot of sense and I think about some of those same things. The one thing I’m completely intolerant about is someone else trying to force their beliefs upon me. I think the best of all worlds is one in which everyone decides for themselves. Obviously making hair color a crime goes beyond that. Drafting a young man into an army and placing him in a jungle where you force him to kill or be killed goes beyond that. Allowing others to be free to choose their own way is the best guarantee I have of remaining free to choose my own way.

I’m willing to let others choose their own paths as long as those paths don’t forcibly prevent me from choosing mine. People will bring up theoretical limits and challenges to that but they are just talking theory that we are nowhere close right now. I long for a world in which we are nitpicking the philosophical edges instead killing people we don’t agree with.

Mostly I’m just pleading for people to leave each other alone. They have as much right to their ideas as you do. But in the end, tolerance is a practical choice one makes for one’s own benefit. Without it, peace of mind will be very difficult.

Thanks for that thoughtful comment.


Preeti @ Heart and Mind September 19, 2010 at 1:14 am


Utopian dreamer? Me too. I too wish for such a life that we all co-exist in peace and harmony, it could be possible only if we let it.

Many time we feel fear because it unknown, media has created fear for all Muslim or even Muslim looking folks, who are truly innocent. If we only listened instead of fearing, pointing fingers or avoiding it the subject.
Preeti @ Heart and Mind´s last blog post ..Top 10 reasons why I am not on Twitter


Stephen Mills September 19, 2010 at 7:42 am

Hello Preeti, it is possible and it occurs in some places like like my neighborhood. Trouble begins when people try to force their views on others. Thanks for commenting.


hanan September 19, 2010 at 3:45 am

Parodn me but didn’t you just fall in the same trap you are talking about?


Stephen Mills September 19, 2010 at 7:26 am

Hello hanan, no I did not. I’m giving advice to my readers, I’m not the least bit upset about it. You might want to reread the article, particularly sections like “Think what you want and think it passionately. Do what you want and do it passionately.” Thanks for commenting.


hanan September 19, 2010 at 3:47 am

Define “free” 🙂 ?


Stephen Mills September 19, 2010 at 7:30 am

Free = not enslaved by the actions of others. For example spending your time, energy, money, the media airwaves protesting somebody’s choice for the location of a mosque.


Kramer September 20, 2010 at 3:23 pm

“I don’t agree with him, but I could care less what he does.”

(As scholarly as you are, I think the above would interest you.)


Stephen Mills September 20, 2010 at 6:39 pm

Kramer, I can’t imagine what value that link has to you to have it on hand and take to time to share it, but I laughed about anyway. I guess I’m just low class.


David September 21, 2010 at 9:33 pm

This is a very interesting point. I do not agree with you on everything that you have said. I would like for people to live in peace, too but, you have to stand up for what you think is right and not let someone walk all over you.


Stephen Mills September 22, 2010 at 4:58 pm

I David, I guess I’m a little confused about the “walk all over you.” Anyone who knows me knows that I never let people walk over me. I don’t suggest anyone do that either. But that is not what tolerance is about. It’s about letting others to their own ways as long as they aren’t interfering with your rights to do the same. I fail to see how in any examples I gave someone is walking all over you. If you let someone bother you with their choices, in general that is your problem. You are making yourself a victim of their choices when you get upset over what they are doing.

Thank for the response!


Debbie @ Happy Maker September 22, 2010 at 4:43 pm

I agree with David, “you have to stand up for what you think is right and not let someone walk all over you.”

I agree also with some of the article, but there is a time when something just isn’t right that we have to stand up and say, NO. Look at our school system any more. Is it fair that some children are having to suffer, because other children need more time, because they don’t speak English? Yes, we can be more tolerate of other, but not to the point that we loss our own identity. You have to admit there are some that want more then just be themselves. They want control and that is what makes the difference.


Stephen Mills September 22, 2010 at 5:03 pm

Hi Debbie and thank you for commenting. Please see my response to David above. I don’t think children should suffer in school because somebody doesn’t speak English and that takes more time OR because somebody else is slower and that takes more time. Being tolerant is absolutely not about sacrificing yourself. It’s about leaving others to their own choices.


Vincent September 24, 2010 at 12:51 pm

Dear Stephen,

I just want you to know I have been your blog follower.
However, most of the time I disagree with your point and philosophy.
Might be because I am still young, my clock is ticking and believing myself have better use for the community.
The blog do give me point of view of different person, so I can understand someone I disagree with.
Please keep the good job.


Stephen Mills September 30, 2010 at 6:19 am

Vincent, thank you so much for reading my blog and considering the viewpoint I offer. When I was a younger person I might have disagreed with the older me as well 🙂


Sammy September 29, 2010 at 3:56 pm

I agree with most of everything that you have to say. It was a very nice thought out post but, I do not think that this will ever happen. You are speaking about a fairy tale.


Stephen Mills September 30, 2010 at 6:21 am

Hello Sammy, Having a world where everyone is tolerant probably is a fairy tale. HOWEVER, you can make your own life better by being tolerant yourself – not matter what anyone else does. Thank you for leaving that thought.


Brandon Winters October 20, 2010 at 2:18 pm

I really believe in this:
“The degree you try to control another person, is the degree to which you make yourself a slave to their behavior.”

I see too many people that care and try to control the behavior of others, only to become blind to their own. The degree of attention and the amount of energy they waste on “what others are doing” drives me crazy sometimes. Good thing I’ve trained myself to learn to be tolerant.

It took some emotional control and self-exploration, but after a few years I got there 🙂

Great post!
Brandon Winters´s last blog post ..What is Lifestyle Design and Why Should It Mean Anything to You


Kaylee October 18, 2012 at 6:28 pm

I really love how you wrote this, I totally agree with you! It’s just the truth. Like honestly why does it even matter who you are or look like? We are unique! I’m tolerant with everyone, I don’t care how you look like, where you from or your skin color, everyone is different.


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