These days we cannot switch on the TV or web without having to confront intolerance. We see it internationally, nationally, and locally.
It even affects our relationships with family, friends, colleagues, and co-workers.
An Increasingly Intolerant World
We live in a world that is increasingly intolerant, one in which violence, untruthfulness, hate, mutual criticism abound, and people constantly and deliberately do hurtful things to others.
People’s approach to other is frequently one of:
- Widespread intolerance
People are paid lots of money to be intolerant, and they gather around them a large following of insecure people who delight to find their own intolerant attitudes supported by celebrities and leadership figures in politics or religion. These political, social, and religious “leaders” whip their followers into a frenzy over issues that are not central to their original vision, leading to catastrophes like ethnic cleansing, or even to the deliberate, destructive intention of labeling others to demean or destroy them.
People develop skills that foster intolerance, challenging people and especially leaders to be equally skilled in opposing it.
Ignorant and Uninterested
Intolerant people are generally uninformed or ignorant, either by force of circumstances or by a deliberate closed mindedness—a desire not to learn what other people think or feel. Their deafness to others’ views and their unwillingness to search for common ground give rise to hatred for anyone who thinks differently than themselves.
Closed mindedness atrophies thought, but since knowledge is the basis of love it also stunts any ability to grow in understanding and love. Closed mindedness is not a normal characteristic of human beings who innately search for meaning, understanding, and enlightenment.
But, people are trained and initiated into closed mindedness generally by social, political, educational, or religious figures.
Some local groups or entire nations are known for their open-mindedness, and others for their closed mindedness. However, intolerant behavior is now a serious cultural problem that demands the attention of spiritual leaders who should model and teach tolerance
Rejecting a Bigger Picture
Most people do not think they are intolerant. Rather, they have false justification for their behavior. Many think they are being principled, consider their views the only acceptable ones, and see any attempt to understand others as weakness. Our society is riddled with extreme fundamentalism in politics, choice of political parties, judicial practice, approaches to foreign policy, and all sorts of issues in religion.
Litmus tests are everywhere, and any divergence from the acceptable, myopic views is rejected, and those who hold different views are despised.
Some of the most complicated contemporary issues receive simplistic answers from people who will not or cannot think things through. Such people often act like bulldozers, flattening all other ideas in their path.
Rejecting Intolerant Behavior
People who seek spiritual depth in their leadership need to reject all forms of intolerant behavior. This will mean first and foremost accepting the need to constantly learn anew, to appreciate that some change and adaptability guarantees the genuineness of values we hold. Never to change means always to live in the past.
We must have exceptional listening skills to understand others’ words, their deeper yearnings, their struggles, and their hopes.
We will need to be people of genuine dialogue, even with others who lack such skills. We can read and study with the desire to be more informed. From time to time we should rethink our own views, either to conclude in reaffirming them or to change them when we notice a loss of focus.
So many drag along behind them ideas from the past, emphasize what dedication used to be two thousand years ago. Intolerant behavior that closes the door on new ways of thinking and doing leads to myopic approaches that quickly destroy society—civic and religious. Spiritual leaders must react to this and give birth to tolerant behavior in every aspect of an organization.
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