The other day, my friend Jill Konrath wrote a compelling post, Silence Is Complicity. Please make sure you read it. The post resulted in an email discussion between Jill and me on the topic of Intolerance.
In the national media, we are pummeled by pundits spewing messages of intolerance. Whether they wrap themselves in their country’s flag, claiming patriotism, or in the “rightness” of their issue, or claiming a religious position, or are just plain mean; we’re surrounded by intolerance. Their messages are nothing but poison.
These people refuse to recognize other points of view, other ideas, and positions. Through arrogance, conceit, ignorance or fear, rather than engaging in a healthy exchange of ideas, or in listening and understanding, they seek to destroy, to tear things down. This behavior is shameful. To see so called leaders or influencers spewing this venom sets a terrible example and makes all of us littler, stop all progress, and keep us from growing.
One doesn’t have to look far back in history to see the damage done by intolerance. Millions of deaths, decades of repression, cultures and economies destroyed.
Intolerance is the enemy of progress, of innovation, of growth and creativity. Intolerance does not create success, but instead drives failure. It impacts all of us because it stops the exchange of ideas. It stops us from seeking to understand and to be understood. It stifles our growth as individuals, communities, organizations, and nations.
At a time when so many are searching for answers, whether to achieve our personal goals, to find ways for our companies to grow, to provide solutions for our communities, or to be better world citizens; intolerance stops all of that.
It’s differences that make us great. Differing backgrounds, differing experiences, differing beliefs, different ideas, different points of view. No single person or group can have the answers. But the healthy exchange of views and ideas enable us to consider new things. Rather than trying to shut down or shout down those who hold a different point of view, we need to encourage them to speak up, we need to listen, we need to respect them—though we may still not agree with them.
Ideas, conversations, differences in views are the stuff that create growth, and isn’t that what each of us is trying to do?
Intolerance is around us every day. It’s just not the garbage we hear in the news. We see it in very subtle ways every day. It’s the bullying, it’s people who don’t listen, it’s people who stop learning. It happens in little ways, but accumulates, and worsens.
The only way we fight intolerance is to refuse to succumb. We must continue to question, we must continue to explore, we must continue to learn. We cannot stand by and say nothing, because if we do, Silence Is Complicity, and silence destroys each of us.