A national virtue that we are coming to accept is the idea of tolerance. The word tolerate comes from the Latin verb tolerare which means “to bear,” or “to endure”. To tolerate something is not to accept it, it is to endure it. To endure something means that you don’t like it, you don’t enjoy it, but you put up with it because you have to. You endure root canals, punishments, and un-relievable pain; you don’t endure eating pizza, or kissing your significant other (unless you’re not doing it right : ). To tolerate a person is to bear them as a burden. If you tolerate Jack, then you don’t like him, you don’t want him around, you don’t enjoy interacting with him, but you endure his presence because you have to. To tolerate something is to build a wall against its presence in your life. It’s like putting up a privacy fence between your yard and your neighbor’s yard. You can’t get rid of him, so you put up a fence and ignore him, “Don’t bother me, and I won’t bother you.” That’s toleration. It merely avoids conflict; it’s sterile. I don’t want to be tolerated.
Forgiveness is a semantic cousin of toleration. It is a purely English word, coming from the Old English forgiefan which combined for- (completely) and giefan (to give). To forgive is to give completely of oneself to the other for the other’s sake. Where toleration is sterile, forgiveness is intrinsically messy. Forgiveness does not simply endure the other person. It does not build walls or fences; it does not keep the other person at arm’s length. Where toleration avoids conflict for the sake of false peace, forgiveness steers into conflict for the sake of reconciliation. Where toleration gives blanket allowance, forgiveness refuses to condone abhorrent acts. Forgiveness reconciles individuals and their relationships while recognizing and accepting the consequences of poor choices; and so, forgiveness requires change. Forgiveness requires a change in character, in actions, in relationships, and in hearts, both for the forgiver and the forgiven. Sometimes, where the heart of one party has turned away, forgiveness requires a parting of ways; while tolerance never gets close enough to see the heart. Forgiveness can mean rejection. If forgiveness means to completely give of oneself, it must also entail fully taking the other in; the fence must come down. Forgiveness is always for the sake of the other, for it is always based in love.
Given the choice, I would rather be known for my forgiveness than my tolerance.