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Categories: Uncategorized
Sources: As A Matter Of Course

WHEN we are tolerant as a matter of course, the nervous system is

relieved of almost the worst form of persistent irritation it could


The freedom of tolerance can only be appreciated by those who have

known the suffering of intolerance and gained relief.

A certain perspective is necessary to a recognition of the full

absurdity of intolerance. One of the greatest absurdities of it is
evident when we are annoyed and caused intense suffering by our

intolerance of others, and, as a consequence, blame others for the

fatigue or illness which follows. However mistaken or blind other

people may be in their habits or their ideas, it is entirely our

fault if we are annoyed by them. The slightest blame given to

another in such a case, on account of our suffering, is quite out of


Our intolerance is often unconscious. It is disguised under one form

of annoyance or another, but when looked full in the face, it can

only be recognized as intolerance.

Of course, the most severe form is when the belief, the action, or

habit of another interferes directly with our own selfish aims. That

brings the double annoyance of being thwarted and of rousing more

selfish antagonism.

Where our selfish desires are directly interfered with, or even

where an action which we know to be entirely right is prevented,

intolerance only makes matters worse. If expressed, it probably

rouses bitter feelings in another. Whether we express it openly or

not, it keeps us in a state of nervous irritation which is often

most painful in its results. Such irritation, if not extreme in its

effect, is strong enough to keep any amount of pure enjoyment out of


There may be some one who rouses our intolerant feelings, and who

may have many good points which might give us real pleasure and

profit; but they all go for nothing before our blind, restless


It is often the case that this imaginary enemy is found to be a

friend and ally in reality, if we once drop the wretched state of

intolerance long enough to see him clearly.

Yet the promptest answer to such an assertion will probably be,

"That may be so in some cases, but not with the man or woman who

rouses my intolerance."

It is a powerful temptation, this one of intolerance, and takes hold

of strong natures; it frequently rouses tremendous tempests before

it can be recognized and ignored. And with the tempest comes an

obstinate refusal to call it by its right name, and a resentment

towards others for rousing in us what should not have been there to

be roused.

So long as a tendency to anything evil is in us, it is a good thing

to have it roused, recognized, and shaken off; and we might as

reasonably blame a rock, over which we stumble, for the bruises

received, as blame the person who rouses our intolerance for the

suffering we endure.

This intolerance, which is so useless, seems strangely absurd when

it is roused through some interference with our own plans; but it is

stranger when we are rampant against a belief which does not in any

way interfere with us.

This last form is more prevalent in antagonistic religious beliefs

than in anything else. The excuse given would be an earnest desire

for the salvation of our opponent. But who ever saved a soul through

an ungracious intolerance of that soul's chosen way of believing or

living? The danger of loss would seem to be all on the other side.

One's sense of humor is touched, in spite of one's self, to hear a

war of words and feeling between two Christians whose belief is

supposed to be founded on the axiom, "Judge not, that ye be not


Without this intolerance, argument is interesting, and often

profitable. With it, the disputants gain each a more obstinate

belief in his own doctrines; and the excitement is steadily

destructive to the best health of the nervous system.

Again, there is the intolerance felt from various little ways and

habits of others,--habits which are comparatively nothing in

themselves, but which are monstrous in their effect upon a person

who is intolerant of them.

One might almost think we enjoyed irritated nerves, so persistently

do we dwell upon the personal peculiarities of others. Indeed, there

is no better example of biting off one's own nose than the habit of

intolerance. It might more truly be called the habit of irritating

one's own nervous system.

Having recognized intolerance as intolerance, having estimated it at

its true worth, the next question is, how to get rid of it. The

habit has, not infrequently, made such a strong brain-impression

that, in spite of an earnest desire to shake it off, it persistently


Of course, the soil about the obnoxious growth is loosened the

moment we recognize its true quality. That is a beginning, and the

rest is easier than might be imagined by those who have not tried


Intolerance is an unwillingness that others should live in their own

way, believe as they prefer to, hold personal habits which they

enjoy or are unconscious of, or interfere in any degree with our

ways, beliefs, or habits.

That very sense of unwillingness causes a contraction of the nerves

which is wasteful and disagreeable. The feeling rouses the

contraction, the contraction more feeling; and so the Intolerance is

increased in cause and in effect. The immediate effect of being

willing, on the contrary, is, of course, the relaxation of such

contraction, and a healthy expansion of the nerves.

Try the experiment on some small pet form of intolerance. Try to

realize what it is to feel quite willing. Say over and over to

yourself that you are quite willing So-and-so should make that

curious noise with his mouth. Do not hesitate at the simplicity of

saying the words to yourself; that brings a much quicker effect at

first. By and by we get accustomed to the sensation of willingness,

and can recall it with less repetition of words, or without words at

all. When the feeling of nervous annoyance is roused by the other,

counteract it on the instant by repeating silently: "I am quite

willing you should do that,--do it again." The man or woman,

whoever he or she may be, is quite certain to oblige you! There will

be any number of opportunities to be willing, until by and by the

willingness is a matter of course, and it would not be surprising if

the habit passed entirely unnoticed, as far as you are concerned.

This experiment tried successfully on small things can be carried to

greater. If steadily persisted in, a good fifty per cent of wasted

nervous force can be saved for better things; and this saving of

nervous force is the least gain which comes from a thorough riddance

of every form of intolerance.

"But," it will be objected, "how can I say I am willing when I am


Surely you can see no good from the irritation of unwillingness;

there can be no real gain from it, and there is every reason for

giving it up. A clear realization of the necessity for willingness,

both for our own comfort and for that of others, helps us to its

repetition in words. The words said with sincere purpose, help us to

the feeling, and so we come steadily into clearer light.

Our very willingness that a friend should go the wrong way, if he

chooses, gives us new power to help him towards the right. If we are

moved by intolerance, that is selfishness; with it will come the

desire to force our friend into the way which we consider right.

Such forcing, if even apparently successful, invariably produces a

reaction on the friend's part, and disappointment and chagrin on our


The fact that most great reformers were and are actuated by the very

spirit of intolerance, makes that scorning of the ways of others

seem to us essential as the root of all great reform. Amidst the

necessity for and strength in the reform, the petty spirit of

intolerance intrudes unnoticed. But if any one wants to see it in

full-fledged power, let him study the family of a reformer who have

inherited the intolerance of his nature without the work to which it

was applied.

This intolerant spirit is not indispensable to great reforms; but it

sometimes goes with them, and is made use of, as intense selfishness

may often be used, for higher ends. The ends might have been

accomplished more rapidly and more effectually with less selfish

instruments. But man must be left free, and if he will not offer

himself as an open channel to his highest impulses, he is used to

the best advantage possible without them.

There is no finer type of a great reformer than Jesus Christ; in his

life there was no shadow of intolerance. From first to last, he

showed willingness in spirit and in action. In upbraiding the

Scribes and Pharisees he evinced no feeling of antagonism; he merely

stated the facts. The same firm calm truth of assertion, carried out

in action, characterized his expulsion of the money-changers from

the temple. When he was arrested, and throughout his trial and

execution, it was his accusers who showed the intolerance; they sent

out with swords and staves to take him, with a show of antagonism

which failed to affect him in the slightest degree.

Who cannot see that, with the irritated feeling of intolerance, we

put ourselves on the plane of the very habit or action we are so

vigorously condemning? We are inviting greater mistakes on our part.

For often the rouser of our selfish antagonism is quite blind to his

deficiencies, and unless he is broader in his way than we are in

ours, any show of intolerance simply blinds him the more.

Intolerance, through its indulgence, has come to assume a monstrous

form. It interferes with all pleasure in life; it makes clear, open

intercourse with others impossible; it interferes with any form of

use into which it is permitted to intrude. In its indulgence it is a

monstrosity,--in itself it is mean, petty, and absurd.

Let us then work with all possible rapidity to relax from

contractions of unwillingness, and become tolerant as a matter of


Whatever is the plan of creation, we cannot improve it through any

antagonistic feeling of our own against creatures or circumstances.

Through a quiet, gentle tolerance we leave ourselves free to be

carried by the laws. Truth is greater than we are, and if we can be

the means of righting any wrong, it is by giving up the presumption

that we can carry truth, and by standing free and ready to let truth

carry us.

The same willingness that is practised in relation to persons will

be found equally effective in relation to the circumstances of life,

from the losing of a train to matters far greater and more

important. There is as much intolerance to be dropped in our

relations to various happenings as in our relations to persons; and

the relief to our nerves is just as great, perhaps even greater.

It seems to be clear that heretofore we have not realized either the

relief or the strength of an entire willingness that people and

things should progress in their own way. How can we ever gain

freedom whilst we are entangled in the contractions of intolerance?

Freedom and a healthy nervous system are synonymous; we cannot have

one without the other.