Tolerance vs Acceptance

Tolerance is where you believe that something is a part of life, and it will be difficult or impossible to change. Acceptance is where you understand that it’s part of life and accept it for what it is. You may be tolerating negative relationships with others because you think you can’t escape them. You may be tolerating the idea of not having a sense of purpose in life.

From a state of tolerance, you can stay tolerating a circumstance while it annoys you and gets you down. Or, you can choose to accept it for what it is and let go of your negative thoughts about it, by trying to understand it at a higher level. The third option is to take action to change it; the difficult varying greatly depending on what it is.

Staying tolerant has its benefits. You don’t have to make a confrontation which could make a situation worse. If you’re tolerating a dreadful job, it may be wise to keep tolerating it if you don’t have the financial freedom to quit or have no better job opportunities. Taking action to try and improve your working conditions may get you fired. If you leave to try and find a new job, you may find a job that’s even worse, or even fail to find another job.

But tolerance is not a fun state to be in. You don’t want to get annoyed every time you have to clean your room or take the bins out; trying to change to a state of acceptance is usually best in this scenario. Taking action to fix this part of your life without tolerance or acceptance means delegating the task to someone else, which often is not a good solution — it should be your responsibility to clean your room.

Choosing to accept things as how they are is the peaceful option. It is where you try to let go of your negative emotional reaction to something you’re tolerating so that it no longer bothers you as much. If you fully accept that other people make mistakes, you won’t get as annoyed when things go wrong. If you accept that taking the bins out is a part of life, you can learn to let go of the pain and effort, then doing it will seem almost effortless. If you want to find acceptance for something you’re tolerating, but are struggling to, there are guided meditation courses on the topic of acceptance.

The final option is to act. Taking action is usually the riskiest option because you are generally tolerating situations for the secondary gains of those situations. You tolerate your boss mistreating you because you need to get paid. Taking action like confronting your boss or leaving could end badly. It is a courageous option, which could result in a much better outcome than either tolerance or acceptance. Deciding whether it is worth the risk is ultimately your decision, take time on it and consider others’ advice. Do remember that not making a decision is a decision in itself.

Taking action to try and fix other things that you are tolerating may end up being a lifetime commitment. You are probably tolerating or accepting various societal problems, such as climate change, pollution, injustice, the torture of factory-farmed animals, the mental health crisis, antimicrobial resistance, fake news, etc. These are things you can either tolerate, accept, or take action to remedy. Even taking smaller steps will help you live your life in greater alignment with your conscience and heart. Unless you’re accepting it as a necessary part of life that you’re happy to ignore, placing the burden of fixing these problems on others. Taking on responsibility is the best way to find a sense of meaning in the world, understanding the responsibility you have for the effects of your actions is the way to live life as a fully grown adult. So, are you going to keep tolerating that issue that’s bothering you, or are you going to accept it for what it is, or even take action?