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Posts Tagged ‘struggle’

Tolerance

Conventional wisdom about tolerance varies – some people seem to think that we become less tolerant as we get older, perhaps finding fewer reasons to compromise or to dilute our strongly-held views; others think that the longer we are on the planet the more we have the capacity to be more aware, and therefore by definition, more tolerant. There are probably as many examples of one as of the other …

Recently I visited an elderly friend (she is 89 and nearly blind) whom I’ve known for over 30 years. She is a bright and independent lady, erudite and witty, and in the early years of our acquaintance I suppose it was her obvious sense of knowing what she knew to be right and proper that was her trademark. She knew what she knew, and she knew it was right and proper. There were things that could not possibly be right, ever, and they could be as much in the realm of language and grammar as in social behaviour and personal choices. 

My friend used to talk a lot about her family, to anyone who would listen. One negative take on this was that sometimes you had the impression she only asked after others to have a springboard to talk about her own family. I remember the day, years ago, when she mentioned in passing that one of her grandsons had revealed his love for a male partner. I could sense the struggle – her outrage and disbelief, her love for her grandson and the impossible position she found herself in, with a member of her beloved family on the wrong side of her particular set of rules, prohibitions and beliefs about what was right or appropriate. My friend, who had been quick to be judgemental of others, was now having to re-examine some of those judgements at close hand.

How she dealt with the struggle I don’t know. All I know is that on my recent visit she expressed how glad she was that her various family members were well and happy, and fulfilling their potential. When she went through their names, and got to the grandson in question here, she made a point of mentioning, “he’s gay, you know”, and proceeded to talk about him with the affection I would have expected, and about his wonderful partner (who was both male and happened to be of a different colour and culture from her grandson) in the sort of terms that had me smiling inwardly. She’d obviously got through her struggle, and come out with a score that looked to me like: Tolerance 1 Judgementalism 0. I took that as being a sign of hope.

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