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Teaching Tolerance
By Susan Hines-Brigger


Tolerance in Religion
Becoming More Tolerant
For Teens: Role Reversal
For Kids: Give It a Try

As a mom, I canít tell you the number of times Iíve heard one of my kids tell me that they didnít like something or someoneódespite the fact that they had never tried it or gotten to know the person. Of course, I must confess that I have also been guilty of doing the same thing more than Iíd like to admit. Honestly, we all are.

The fact that I am writing on this topic for the month when we are marking the fifth anniversary of the September 11 attacks has not escaped me. Following those attacks, peopleís tolerance for anything outside their comfort zone or understanding seemed to be at an all-time low.

Granted, tolerance is not easy. It never has been. But that doesnít mean we canít strive to do better. Only when we learn to become more tolerant can we move forward. Many changes throughout history have taken place because of people becoming more tolerant and accepting.


Tolerance in Religion

Iím sure youíve heard the advice that the two things you should never openly discuss are politics and religion. And Iím sure weíve all experienced why thatís true at one time or another. As a writer for this magazine for the past 12 years, I know I have.

But sometimes people tend to become very rigid in their beliefs and opinions. Tolerance isnít even given a chance. And sometimes civility goes right out the door with it.

Thatís certainly not the example that Jesus gave us. Letís be honestóJesus hung out with some questionable characters for his time. But just because he was in their company didnít mean he adopted their ways. He actually strove to make them better. What better lead is there for us to follow?

Becoming More Tolerant

Learning and practicing tolerance is an ongoing process. Here are suggestions to help:

Stop, look and listen. Youíre not compromising your beliefs simply by listening to different points of view. And you may not change your mind on an issue, but you may gain some insight and understanding. For example, I recently went to see the movie The Da Vinci Code. But just because I saw the movie didnít mean I was buying into its premise. In fact, in many ways it probably strengthened the beliefs I already had.

Build a good base. The best place to start trying to be more tolerant is in your everyday life. For example, try harder not to lose your temper with your kids. Be more tolerant with your parents, your spouse, your co-workers, etc. After you get a handle on that you can step it up to the next level and try to be more tolerant in your beliefs on bigger issues.

Be a student again. Weíre never too old to stop learning. Try to find a way to learn about something new or expand your knowledge about something with which you are already familiar. Take a course or go to a lecture on a subject youíve always wondered about but never fully understood. Check with a local college or university or even your local library for such opportunities.

Next Month: Let There Be Light


For Teens: Role Reversal

One of the reasons people are sometimes intolerant is because of a lack of understanding. As a teenager, youíve had adults criticize some of your choices in music, clothes, activities, etc., Iím sure. But thatís nothing new. I can remember my parents questioning some of my tastes when I was a teenager. But what can be different is how you respond.

For instance, if your parents donít understand your enjoyment of skateboarding or playing video games, take some time to explain or show what it is you love about that activity. Invite them into your interests.

But remember that tolerance and understanding is a two-way street. Is there something one of your parents enjoys but youíre not sure why? Ask your mom or dad if you can join in that activity. For instance, does your mom like to scrapbook? If so, sit down with her and give it a try. (You could even produce a scrapbook about one of your interests.) Or if your dad works on cars, hang out with him and ask what he enjoys so much about it. You just might find some common groundóor some new interestsóin the process.

For Kids: Give It a Try

Have you ever said you didnít like something ďjust becauseĒ? It could be a type of food, a person or a certain activity, game or sport. Before you said you didnít like it, did you try it? Sometimes people make decisions about things before they even give them a try. For the next couple of weeks, challenge yourself to be a little more adventurous. Before you say you donít like something, give it a try. You may discover that you like some new things. If you donít, at least you have a reason why.


Do you have ideas or suggestions for topics you'd like to see addressed in this column? If so, send them to me at “Faith-filled Family,” 28 W. Liberty Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202-6498, or e-mail them to

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