Many of you know my thoughts on tolerance. Some even question them on occasion. In truth I am not a very tolerant person, its just that I am not tolerant of Ideals. People are imperfect, they utilize their free will to make bad choices which I believe are part of God’s plan to bring them back to Moral Truth and the Natural Law. I try very hard to be tolerant of people (I don’t always succeed – but that is not for lack of effort). I think of Jesus words NOT condemning the adulteress, he was clearly condemning the ideal and not the person. Then one day I stumbled across this particular gem from Archbishop Sheen and it went straight to my heart, where it has since taken up residence, along with the St. Bernadette’s “Mine is not to convince, but only to inform”.
In 1931, Monsignor Fulton J. Sheen wrote the following essay:
“America, it is said, is suffering from intolerance-it is not. It is suffering from tolerance. Tolerance of right and wrong, truth and error, virtue and evil, Christ and chaos. Our country is not nearly so overrun with the bigoted as it is overrun with the broadminded.”
“Tolerance is an attitude of reasoned patience toward evil … a forbearance that restrains us from showing anger or inflicting punishment. Tolerance applies only to persons … never to truth. Tolerance applies to the erring, intolerance to the error … Architects are as intolerant about sand as foundations for skyscrapers as doctors are intolerant about germs in the laboratory.
Tolerance does not apply to truth or principles. About these things we must be intolerant, and for this kind of intolerance, so much needed to rouse us from sentimental gush, I make a plea. Intolerance of this kind is the foundation of all stability.”
Given my own imperfections, I feel incompetent to judge others. I have made my share of mistakes and it took more than a tap on the shoulder by God to bring me to my senses. As he loves each of us unconditionally, I strive to do the same for each person – not their actions, and not their ideals. By separating the two and focusing on individuals, I find the task much less insurmountable. Not condemning a person is not the same as condoning their actions and I frequently find myself in a position where I have to stop for a moment and remember to separate the two. This can take some practice, but it can also bring you greater peace – especially when espousing uncomfortable moral truths in the hopes that others might avoid the rocks and shoals in the sea of life.