To me, these things are very different, but I've recently learned that that is not always the case. My older sister and I used to get into very heated discussions simply because we would both be using the same word, but we would have slightly different meanings and definitions of said word. I remember one conversation where we ended up having to pause and get each other's definition of "friend." It turned out that her definition of "friend" was akin to my definition of "acquaintance."
Dictionary.com defines tolerance as "1. a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions, beliefs, practices, racial or ethnic origins, etc., differ from one's own; freedom from bigotry. 2. a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward opinions, beliefs, and practices that differ from one's own." Tolerance is realizing that people are different and knowing that that is ok.
Acceptance is defined as "the action or process of being received as adequate or suitable, typically to be admitted into a group." To me, this seems like a verb, an action word. (It is actually a noun.) Hell, "action" is in the definition.
Tolerance is good
Please don't misunderstand: being tolerant of other people and beliefs is a good thing! Realizing that your way isn't the only way or the "right" way is a major thing and shouldn't be diminished. If a devote Catholic decided to visit Mecca, they would have to, at the very least, tolerate that the majority of the people around them are Muslim. If a Muslim went to the Vatican, they would have to tolerate that the majority of the people around them are Christians (most likely Catholic). I realize these are extreme examples, but the point is clear: not everyone is exactly like you and that's ok.
Acceptance is better
Tolerance is passive. It's a "live and let live" sort of mentality. Acceptance is active. Not only do you tolerate the other person's differences, but you embrace them as part of who they are and support them. Your best friend comes out to you. You say "That's wonderful. I love you. Thank you for sharing this with me. I'm so glad you were comfortable enough to open up to me." If you want to show them that you not only tolerate their lifestyle, but accept it, you'll go on double dates with them, go to gay bars as often as straight bars, go to their wedding and be genuinely happy for them that they found someone to love and commit to for the rest of their lives.
If you find out that your bestie is Pagan and wants to have a handfasting ceremony or a wiccaning for their baby, tolerance says you show up on the day and watch the ceremony. Acceptance is offering to help with any planning or prepping.
Be the best human you can
If someone you love is doing something you wholeheartedly disagree with, and tolerance is all you can muster, then be the most tolerant human you can be. I guarantee that your loved one will appreciate it.
If you can, be their best case scenario. Accept them, love them, and support them as much as you can. Send them positive and encouraging messages if they are struggling. Ask questions and try to learn all that you can about their lifestyle. Be interested and, most importantly, be there if they need you. Especially if this is a new lifestyle change for them. Knowing that you are different than your regular group (friends or family) can feel very isolating. It can be a great comfort to know that you have someone there who knows who you are and still loves, accepts and supports you.
A note to those seeking acceptance
It can be a challenge, maybe even feel impossible, to inform someone that your lifestyle is different from their own. If you love and respect them, you might feel pressured to maintain the status quo and avoid telling them that you are different for fear that they won't accept or tolerate your differences. If you are struggling to tell someone you love about your different lifestyle and you need someone to talk to, email me. If nothing else, I'm a great listener.
Get your daily Nerdy fix by following us on Instagram