Tolerance vs Acceptance: A Lesson in Definitions

I’ve expressed my frustration and lack of understanding for the plight of the Grammar Nazi. (Aka: Grammar Snotsie) It’s no secret that I feel most of them lack manners, couth and compassion. Manners, couth and compassion in relation to their self-appointed job of correcting the spelling, word usage and punctuation of Facebook posts and Memes.

Seeing as how I am a reformed Grammar Snotsie, I feel I’m in the unique position of understanding what it’s like to be on both sides of that coin. I’ve learned to let a lot go, but I’ve noticed a sort of phenomenon on Facebook lately.  Not only Facebook, but the whole internet, TV Shows, news programs… Actually, it’s happening everywhere…

It’s the confusion between the words tolerance and acceptance. The word tolerance is thrown around in a plethora of circumstances as a way to make someone feel bad, or to 063-Tolerate-tolerancemake them feel guilty. If you express an opinion that someone disagrees with, you’re accused of intolerance, and -more often than not- the accusation is filled with anger, hate and, ironically enough, intolerance.

They’re using the word ‘intolerance’ incorrectly. What they actually mean is disapproving.

Tolerance is defined as an indulgence for beliefs differing from or conflicting with one’s own.

Acceptance is giving approval without protest or reaction.

Believe it or not, you can tolerate something without accepting it. That seems to be where the confusion comes in… If I don’t agree with you or your life choices, it doesn’t mean I’m intolerant of them. It means I don’t agree and do not accept your life choices as correct.

I tolerate the fact that grown men enjoy watching a cartoon that is filled with pastel colored ponies, even though it is intended for eight year old little girls. But I will never accept that as normal or agree that it’s okay and not weird or wildly inappropriate.

intolerant of intoleranceI tolerate that people believe in evolution. I can even tolerate that it’s taught in school when Intelligent design isn’t. I will never accept it as truth and never agree with the way schools teach it.

I tolerate the gay and lesbian lifestyle, but I will never accept it as okay or correct.

In my experience, the accusation of intolerance is most often used or seen in conversations pertaining to the homosexual lifestyle or gay marriage and bronies. Why is that? They want to be accepted, not tolerated. They’re already tolerated, but because they’re not accepted as the norm, they use anger and accusations of intolerance.

See, people seem to believe that you can’t tolerate something without accepting it. Poppycock!

If is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it

Not only can something be tolerated but not accepted, a person can be accepted and not tolerated. My husband and I are friends with two lesbian couples, one of the couples are older  with grandchildren and treat my kids like one of them. They are better to my children than some of their actual grandparents. We accept these ladies and love them, but we will never agree that their relationships are okay, ideal or right.

People say “But how can you maintain a relationship with them without incident?”

Easy. We don’t talk about it. They don’t force their choices on us and we don’t force our choices on them.

“But you’re Christians! You should be witnessing to them!”

intoleranceWe do. We lead by example and with love. If they don’t try to force us to agree with, or ask our opinion of, their lifestyle – there’s no reason to bring it up. They know where we stand and they tolerate it – and us them.

My most recent exchange with the “intolerance” accusers was on a thread about Disney airing an episode of “Good Luck Charlie” with an openly gay couple. We’re expected to accept the normalizing of gay and lesbian couples because the homosexual lifestyle and influence is out there. So we may as well get used to it… Right? Well, I don’t accept that and I won’t get used to it. I won’t tolerate the show either. We didn’t watch the show anyway, but if we did – we wouldn’t anymore.

I can tolerate the homosexual agenda on adult TV shows, but not a kid’s. Shows normalizing homosexual marriage, aimed at children… Well, that’s no longer ‘neutral’. That’s pushing beliefs onto my children. You may disagree with that and think that it makes me a bad mother who shelters or misleads her kids. You may think I’m a bigot. That’s fine, but if you do, not only would you be wrong, you’d be a hypocrite.

islam intolerance hypocrisyWhen it comes to shows geared toward children, would you allow your child to watch one that normalizes drug use? How about one that normalizes lying? Cheating? Of course you wouldn’t. Not if it didn’t show that there are consequences for those actions. (At least I hope you wouldn’t. If you would, that’s a WHOLE other post…)

I mean, how many of us would allow our children to watch Dexter? Better still, what about a child’s show that portrays a girl who forgoes a college education to become a porn star? If I’m an intolerant bigot for not allowing my child to watch “Good Luck Charlie”, then the same applies to anyone who’d not allow their children to watch Dexter, Sons of Anarchy, Breaking Bad or one of the examples I gave.

However, I’m guessing many would disagree – as they did on this post on Joe the Plumber’s Facebook page. The question asked in the first reply to the comment was:

“What if one of [your children] were gay? Would you completely reject them?”

to which I asked: “What if one of yours happens to become a porn star…? You’re going to be accepting of that?”

In the next reply I was accused of  being intolerant and close minded. See how that works? No? Yeah, I don’t either.

My point was very valid. Asking someone how accepting they’d be if their children grew up to be gay is no different from asking how accepting they’d be if their children grew up to be porn stars… drug dealers… strippers… thieves… But, because I pointed that out to them – I’m the intolerant and closed-minded one.

So see, that’s where the problem comes in when using words like intolerance, bigot, close-minded… Disagreeing with or not accepting someone else’s life choices does not mean you are intolerant. Being un-willing to accept that someone disagrees with you or attempting to force them to agree with you, that makes you intolerant.

Tolerance is not the same as acceptance.-2 copy

5 thoughts on “Tolerance vs Acceptance: A Lesson in Definitions”

  1. While I am a Christian and I love your (well-needed) explanation about the difference between love and tolerance, I do have one thing for you to ponder. I am not trying to be pushy or a “Devil’s advocate” but, as a former grammar snotsie and someone whose entire career is based on understanding people and their choices, I want to simply ask you to consider that your inquiry about parents worrying about children becoming strippers or porn stars, does function differently. Of course, it does depend on an individuals belief, but many people do believe that an individual’s sexual preference or orientation is not a choice. In this instance, it makes a parents anxiety about that child becoming a porn star, stripper, thief, et cetera incredibly different because it is your child’s choice vs. their natural identity (again depending on beliefs). It is just something to consider when you get frustrated at those who don’t see your concern as valid.


    1. I guess you didn’t get or understand what I was saying. Perhaps I left it out or didn’t say it in black and white…

      Of course I can consider that some parents’ anxiety about a child becoming a porn star are different than their anxiety, or lack thereof, about a child being gay. They, however, cannot do the same. While they see orientation as something that’s not a choice, I believe it is. It is a choice just like using drugs, drinking, or becoming a prostitute are choices. As I pointed out – numerous times in the post – I get that and understand that and it doesn’t bother me that they feel that way. But they don’t get or understand that I don’t feel or believe that way and it bothers them. Therefor, I’m intolerant.

      I get that others don’t believe it’s a choice. They think people are born that way and there’s a “gay gene” proving so – however – there are many, many errors in that belief. First, and most obvious, is that God would not tell us something is wrong and then not give a choice as to whether or not to do it. Thereby forcing it on us. It’s like your mom forcing you to eat cookies before dinner and then punishing you. No. It doesn’t work like that. God allows for desires of the heart that are not his will and it’s up to us to act on those desires, or not. One of them is the desire to have a sexual relationship with the same sex.

      Second, remove God from the equation, if you’d like, and it’s still wrong and not natural. It’s just… not. Yeah, I know there are species in the animal kingdom that practice homosexuality, but since when were we supposed to pattern ourselves after animals? Animals also eat their young and fling their feces, but we don’t see anyone eating their children and saying “The animal kingdom does it!” and if there was anyone saying that – they’d be institutionalized.

      Common sense tells us it’s not natural and that people aren’t “born that way”. If being gay was genetic, it would have died out with the first birth of someone homosexual. Yeah, now with test tube babies and the like – that’s not the case, but hundreds, thousands, however many years ago – that wasn’t an option. Therefor, it couldn’t be passed on in the genes. Not to mention that the “gay gene” is found in people who have already experienced a homosexual encounter, but not in someone who claims they’re gay and haven’t had a homosexual encounter.

      Plus, how do you allow for the ‘gay gene’ proving people are born that way and can’t help it when there is also a ‘rape gene’? Or a ‘pedophile gene’? Or a ‘bestiality gene’? A ‘murder gene’? It stands to reason that if the gay gene proves homosexuality is an orientation, then so are all those things…

      Just my view on it and I get that you don’t agree. You don’t have to. I think they’re wrong, but I’m not intolerant, and that’s the difference I was pointing out with the post. Not to mention, my frustration isn’t with their view or opinion of it. Not at all. My frustration is with the dis-allowance for me to have an opposing opinion without being a bigot (in their eyes).


      1. Shelley –
        I like what you say. I have been following a specific spiritual path (not religious – tolerant of all religions, but not accepting of any) since 1981 that has a fundamental doctrine (although many who claim to follow the path do not follow this doctrine) that is in agreement with much/most of what you say. That doctrine is the three-word phrase, “All is choice.”

        Notice that it uses the word,”all,” not “some” or “most” or “some” or “that which makes you happy,” but “all,” implying that everything, everything in your life – that which makes you happy, that which makes you sad, etc. – is the result of choice that you have made, and not the result of choices made by another.

        A second important doctrine (also ignored by most “students”) is that I, and only I, am responsible for me, and I am not responsible for anyone else. This, of course, does not apply to those cases where a person parents a child, since the act of procreation, itself, implies a contractual obligation of responsibility.

        Like you, I see someone calling me a “bigot” because I see their “life-choice” leading them, very likely, to a life that is much less fulfilling than that of which they are capable, and that, by making that choice, they are depriving society of the best of which they are capable. I also understand that there are many who make such alternate life choices that DO appear to reach their full potential, but this is a small fraction of that population.

        In my list of alternate “life-choices” I include sexual behavior, drugs, homosexuality, etc. – I see them all as mechanisms that individuals use to escape their life, as they see that life. The only real way to escape a situation that you don’t like is to simply walk through it; to keep putting one foot in front of the other until you get through it, however long it takes.


  2. I like your article on tolerance and acceptance, it is well thought out and reasonable, however the people, political parties, and organizations that are so quick to label others as intolerant, are not the least bit interested in respectful debate. Their goal is power and control, and no amount of well intentioned attempts at mutual understanding will persuade them to change. Those of us who believe in the ideals this country was founded on will have to do much more than that. Remember democracy is three wolves and sheep voting on “whats for dinner”, liberty is one well armed sheep changing the menu.


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