The Trouble with Tolerance

Years ago, when I was at a complete loss about what to do with my life, I asked a friend for some advice. He had pulled himself out of some horrible life circumstances and had become quite successful, both in his business and personal life so I was curious what he might suggest. He gave it some thought, then asked if I got sick easily. When I assured him that I didn’t, he replied:

[sociallocker id=”1846″] “Too bad. One of the least known keys to success is to get sick more often. Sick of the garbage in your life. Sick of the way people mistreat you. Sick of your lack of money. You must get sick enough, and get sick fast enough, to do something about it before you permanently adapt to the situation. That’s the trouble with most people. They are far too tolerant of the garbage in their lives. And if they don’t learn to become more sensitive to it, and less tolerant of it, before they know it, they have accepted it as their reality.”

When I look back on the habits and people I’ve left behind throughout my life, I’m amazed I didn’t do it sooner. Long before I gave up on them, I knew they weren’t good for me. And yet, I tolerated them. I tolerated the destructive habits. I tolerated the destructive people. And in the process, I became destructive myself.

Why? Because, as my friend says, I was too tolerant.

From now on, I hope to get sick enough, fast enough to walk away from destructive people and situations before their damage is done. But this won’t be easy because we are taught from childhood to be tolerant. And tolerance can be a wonderful thing – when it is given wisely. But tolerance isn’t a quality that should be taught at the expense of everything else.

Perhaps we should all strive to be a little less tolerant. Not violent. Not indignant. Not even selfish. Just less tolerant of the garbage in our lives.

Of course, there are certain things about which, and situations in which, we should be tolerant and I don’t know where we should draw the line. But I know that a line should be drawn. Otherwise, tolerance can destroy the quality of our lives. And that is something I will no longer tolerate.

Originally published January 4, 2006