Ask Them To Dance
Rector Chris Girata's latest article in the Katy Trail Weekly
A few weeks ago, our U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution condemning all “hateful expressions of intolerance.” So at first glance, I’m glad hateful expressions of intolerance have been clearly condemned. But honestly, I’m left wondering why we need such a broadly sweeping resolution in the first place, and whether a resolution is actually helpful at all.
You might guess, based on my line of work, that I would certainly be against all expressions of intolerance (although sometimes my most intolerant colleagues are the ones who make the most noise). You’d be right. Intolerance is absolutely not Christian, nor is it the best of humanity in general. I’m glad that our leaders want to condemn intolerance, but I sure wish we the people would behave better so that resolutions like that wouldn’t be necessary in the first place.
Tolerance is better than intolerance. Of course it is. Tolerance does no harm, and as a popular notion that has been intentionally present in public dialogue for decades, it’s an ideal that most people offer lip service to support. Certainly, tolerance is better than intolerance, but I also hope for a lot more than just basic tolerance in the future.
Merriam-Webster defines tolerance as “the capacity to endure pain or hardship.” Unfortunately, in my experience, that is the manifestation of tolerance. Most tolerant people fall far short of acceptance, but instead, simply deal politely with people who are different. Not very inspiring.
Instead of simply tolerating one another, I wish we could get to a place of inclusion. Inclusion is not just tolerating someone’s differences. Instead, inclusion is inviting someone as they are to be a part of who you are. I once heard the difference articulated like this: Tolerance is inviting someone to the party, but inclusion is asking them to dance. Sure, it’s good to let someone know they are tolerated, but it’s so much better (incomparably better) to honor who they are. We are best when we seek to include someone else’s uniqueness with our own to make our world more interesting, more joyful and more loving.
Let me be quick to say that I am not hoping for a sugary, shallow kind of inclusion. I’m not hoping that “we can all just get along.” In fact, I’m fond of saying that I don’t seek agreement, I seek alignment. When we have to agree on something together, we often find ourselves bickering about specifics. But when we take a step up, seeking to align toward a more common goal, then we find a space in which we can let the best of us shine.
I began this column with a big moment — the passing of a Congressional resolution — but I want to end with something closer to home. I want to challenge you to talk with a friend or family member you don’t agree with. Rather than making the topic of your conversation a popular issue of the day, I encourage you to ask a better question: What do you hope for?
This week, find someone you know disagrees with you, but someone who does not need to be disagreeable, and see if you might find an idea in which you can align. My guess is that, if we can get beyond the dramatic stories of the day, we will find that we share very similar hopes and dreams for the future. Once we reconnect on that higher level, choosing to live with more civility in the day-to-day will become so much easier. And if that conversation doesn’t go well, try to find someone you don’t know, who’s not like you and ask them to dance.
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