Mastering the Superpowers of Acceptance and Tolerance

by Brian Highfield
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It should come as no surprise that we are in one of the most polarizing times in our nation’s history. The political, racial, and economic divides have widened and sunk deeper. Some view the recent disruptions as seeds for progress, and others view them as pandemonium. These heavy issues are complicated but if we are to move forward as a society and individually, we will need to tap into our internal, and often neglected, superpowers called acceptance and tolerance. “Acceptance and tolerance” isn’t about giving in, it’s much more about understanding and respect. If we want to live in a diverse community with civility, humanity, and culture, then we must seek to understand one another.

Why are acceptance and tolerance superpowers? Because they are required in solving some of the most complex and polarizing issues we face.

Let’s set the stage with two complex and sensitive issues we face as a nation––the issues of racial bias and our political divide. The unnecessary deaths of many people of color has ignited outrage. While many disagree over the violent and destructive behavior stemming from protests, there should be recognition that a real problem exists. And there is a deep and wide political divide that has been stewing for years or even longer. Collaboration, compromise, and civility have taken a backseat to name-calling, mudslinging, and hatred between parties. The mutual respect shared values and finding common ground that used to move us forward as a nation are now on the outside looking in.

This article isn’t about answering all the tough questions or proposing a comprehensive solution to these issues. These are big problems to solve. But part of the answer lies within each of us. If enough of us grow our superpowers of acceptance and tolerance, just imagine all the issues we could solve. So as a first step, let’s focus on improving your superpowers.

Humble Your Mind––You Don’t Know Everything

You could be the World Champion of Jeopardy and be far from knowing everything. Sorry to burst your know-it-all bubble. Have you ever been wrong about something before? Did you ever have a belief that turned out to be untrue? Of course, you have! We all have been wrong before. So, since you have been wrong about something before, isn’t there a possibility that there’s something that you believe right now that is also untrue? If you believe that you’re all-knowing and that all of your opinions are absolutely true, then your mind is stuck and cannot grow. And if you are not growing, you’re dying. So let’s accept the strong probability that there are things that you believe now that could be wrong. Open your mind to alternative ideas and points of view. You might learn something new and replace a false belief with a true one.

Those That Disagree, May Have A Valid Reason To Do So

Every one of us is different physically, mentally, and emotionally. It’s impossible to find another just like you among the 7.3 billion people on earth. Even if someone matched your DNA exactly, there is no one else that matches you mentally and emotionally. Your thoughts are truly unique. Likewise, everyone else’s collective thoughts are unique to them. Your upbringing, social environment, experiences, perspectives, and personal circumstances all combine to form the mindset in which your thoughts are based. There’s a lot of variables in that mixture. Realize that what you are exposed to isn’t what others are exposed to. They are listening to different people, looking at different media, and experiencing different points of view than you. The input that makes up their thoughts is vastly different than yours, so they may have valid reasons to disagree with your thinking.

Get More Perspective

The Roman Emperor and philosopher, Marcus Aurelius, said “Everything you hear is opinion, not fact. Everything you see is perspective, not the truth.” It’s easier to believe in conspiracy theories than it is to understand the truth. Why? Because the truth can be complicated. You need to collect alternative points of view to fully understand anything. Try to sculpt a 3-dimensional statue with only a 2-dimensional picture. The representation won’t be accurate. When you try to understand other people’s points of view, you can only then begin to form an accurate picture of the topic. You cannot learn by talking. You can only learn when you listen. Listening is slowly becoming a lost art, so let’s revive this skill. Listening is not about hearing what others say, but understanding the meaning of what they say. When we listen empathetically, fact and truth become clearer.

You Don’t Need To Fix Anyone That Is “Wrong”

We sometimes have an inherent desire to convince people that they’re wrong. We debate them, reason with them, and solicit others to validate our point of view. Has anyone ever changed your mind through such brute force tactics? No? No kidding! Then don’t waste your time convincing others that your way of thinking is the “right” way. You need to be OK with others being “wrong.” Again, they may have valid reasons for disagreeing with you.

Adopt A Collective Goal

If acceptance and tolerance are superpowers, then judgment and prejudice are their kryptonite. My collective goal for everyone is to recognize that everyone deserves to experience happiness and joy during their significant and brief stay on this planet. When we empathetically project ourselves into the being of another, we see that they want the same thing as us––to be understood, be respected, and provide love, care, and encouragement to those around us. When this collective goal is understood by more people, judgment and prejudice begin to surrender, complex problems get solved, and just like in the movies, the superheroes with the superpowers save the day.

Brian Highfield
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