Leave it Alone

I've been thinking about tolerance and the 7 Childhood Treasures. An abundance of commentary on tolerance and its lack filled our media in the final run-up to the election and in the 13 days that have followed (I am writing on 11/21/16).

So, I looked up a definition, to give myself a place to start. Tolerance is the act of allowing something to be different. Tolerating something is to "leave it alone." Tolerating someone is to leave them alone.

scattered gemsClearly, tolerance is a form of the gem of Acceptance, the last of the 7 Treasures. That was the seam of mining that opened up for you between 6 and 7 years of age. That was the time of your life when the adults around you could have helped you learn that bad circumstances sometimes occur, even in the lives of people who do a lot of good. This was the age at which you could have learned to let go of past grievances, to live with your arms open to the moment, rather than hugging tight a resentment from years or decades ago. That was the developmental period when you could have learned to welcome what is happening, embracing every circumstance as a learning opportunity, rather than wrestle with and try to change what is. That was the age at which you could have learned to leave others alone, to allow something or someone to be different and know that is not about you. I think that last part is the crux of the matter.

If the way you are different from me is not about me, then I don't feel a need to fix or change it. If it's readily apparent that you don't need my protection or support in a current situation of threat or lack, then I don't need to give you advice or offer you resources unless you ask me. I can leave you alone. You're a grown up, you can probably identify your needs and take action to meet them, maybe by asking me for what you want...and maybe some other way. If the way you are different from me is not about me, then I don't need to argue to win you over to my point of view. I don't even the need to defend my point of view because your point of view is not a judgement of mine. Nor is my difference an indictment of who you are. We're just two individuals who are different in our:  ages, sizes, genders, sexual orientations, races, faiths, political ideologies, personal values, histories, ways of apprehending reality, food preferences, clothing styles, hobby and travel interests....

boy 1Looking at the choices some of us are making right now, I am suddenly aware that, when it comes to tolerance, the Treasure of Negotiation adds a deep and significant value to the Treasure of Acceptance. Because, truly, some things are intolerable and we must say NO to them. Yes and No -- the basic binary tool of Negotiation when we are four years old -- can evolve as we grow up, into the more sophisticated Treasures of Compromise at six and Acceptance at seven. And then, Negotiation becomes a useful and well-honed tool, for sharply cutting this facet of the Treasure of Acceptance:  we do not tolerate anything and everything. There are limits; there are Noes.

Our biggest challenge as a country right now may be agreeing on more clear limits about what is a No. For example, I think we could get pretty widespread agreement that selling our children into sexual slavery is a No, something we will not tolerate. You violate that limit, you go to jail. For me, it is a short stretch from there to the bigger No that draws a line against unwanted sexual contact of any kind, for anyone, of any age. In other words, I define what sexual contact I want for me, always. You violate that limit, you go to jail. Seems pretty straightforward and common sense to me. I wonder if I could get 95% of the voters to agree with me...or even 51%.

As a culture, we seem pretty wobbly right now on the subject of whether we tolerate denying someone their human dignity on the basis of their gender, race, religion, or sexual orientation. We seem uncertain about whether we tolerate exclusion of people whose difference confuses or frightens us because we lack knowledge.

For some, that acceptance of exclusion and other indignities seems to be a default, first response. I know that knee-jerk fear is easy; been there, done that, and have a whole collection of those t-shirts. Yes, more time and energy are required for the commitment to overcome ignorance through self-education, and overcome fear with the courage for authentic connection. Would world peace as the outcome make it worth our effort?

At the very center of all this is values. (Try this checklist to become more aware of, at least, your spoken values. Once you choose 14, then try narrowing it down to your 7 most important values.) As a country, as a common culture, we are very weak in the area of actually living the values that we say we have. Once you identify your 7 highest values, take a look at the evidence of your life to see whether they exhibit there. Look at your check register; do you spend your money in alignment with these values? Look at your calendar; do you spend the coin of your time in alignment with your values?

We cannot glibly state that "the children are our future" and then, with our behavior or our silence, assign a little over half of them, by gender, to a lifetime of living in fear that, anytime and anywhere, they may be groped or otherwise assaulted against their will.

cradled infantWe cannot say that we are for religious freedom and then label ALL the members of a particular religion as a threat to our national security...and make them register...and inter them in camps....

Our behavior reveals our real values, no matter what we may say about what we value. What behavior and values are we, right now, "leaving alone," but about which we should be more outspoken? Standing against the intolerable is as important as -- maybe more important than -- standing for the dreams, for the future...for the United in our country's name.

I love this country and I love our democracy. I value them both and I stand for them both. I invite you to join me in that stand, and to also join me in standing for what we cannot, what we will not tolerate. Here's what my stand means to me:  if I see anyone belittling, shaming, or denigrating anyone else on the basis of that person's "other-ness," I will speak up. I will take action to offer my protection from that verbal and emotional violence. I will say No with my compassionate behavior toward the victim of this attack. Count on it.

To be taking Acceptance to the next level of development, as a Treasure, by refusing to leave alone that which should not stand, is an odd paradox to be living. And, I must say, I'm enjoying my learning! _________________________________
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