Thursday, April 14, 2005

How Much Tolerance is Too Much?

When do I draw the line?

This question rattles me a little bit, and I ask it a lot. There is a point at which tolerance becomes apathy. Where is that point?

My daughter Cori has a classmate I'll call Debbie. Debbie was at Cori's birthday party. As far as I knew, they were the best of friends. A couple of days ago, I asked Cori if she wanted to invite Debbie over for a play date. Cori's expression immediately constricted into her famous "I-am-very-angry" face. Her brow furrowed, her lips pursed, her eyes flashed. With seven-year-old fists on seven-year-old hips, she said quite firmly, "No! She's not my friend any more."

I, being Mr. Tolerant, wanted to give Debbie a fair hearing. "What happened?" I asked.

Cori said, "She is too rough at recess, and when I got hurt she laughed at me."

Now I know that compassion deficiency is not uncommon in the first grade, but Debbie had reached a boundary with Cori. It was clear in Cori's mind - "She's not my friend any more" becaue she laughed at me when I was hurt. Cori could not tolerate this heartlessness, and acted accordingly.

Oh, that I could be so certain! Life is complicated, and it is very difficult to separate personalities from actions. How many "Debbies" are there, whom I must love as Jesus commands, but whose actions I cannot tolerate? And when you substitute the word "beliefs" for "actions," it gets even more tricky, doesn't it?

My prayer is that I can learn from my daughter on this one. There has to be a time when a person is "not my friend any more" because of his or her hatefulness, heartlessness, prejudice, or discriminatory ideology. Where do I draw that line?

Maybe I can apply Cori's recess test. So, if you are too rough at recess and you laugh at people when they are hurt, I'm not going to be inviting you over for a play date any time soon.

Grace and Peace,
Andy B.


Seamhead said...

Andy, I draw the line at Cubs Fans.

Seamhead said...

Seriously, though this question is one that sticks with me. How do I tolerate the beliefs of someone who says his/her beliefs invalidate my own? I find it difficult.

Anonymous said...

What a tough question. I stuggle with this ALL THE TIME. I can quite often "tolerate" (but just barely) some people but it's pretty hard to dialogue or be friends with them, when their "Christian" beliefs and so much different than my "Christian" beliefs. So often it is easier to just ignore the situation and pretend it's not happening, when I know I should speak up and express my point of view. So it's no supprise to me that I am posting this anonymously!!!