Tolerance: Definition and Meaning

Being tolerant is essential for reducing antagonistic tensions between groups and assisting societies in resolving unresolvable disputes, despite the fact that it can often seem like an impossible task (as Hobbes in the inset box on the right illustrates). This is so that various groups can relate to one another in a courteous and understanding manner. Tolerance is essential to this.

Tolerance aids impacted groups in enduring the agony of the past and resolving their differences in situations where communities have been deeply entangled in violent conflict. The Rwandan Hutus and Tutsis have put up with a reconciliation process that has allowed them to work through their hostility and hatred toward one another.

Meaning of Tolerance

Respect for difference and the capacity to live in harmony with others are qualities associated with tolerance. It is the capacity to approach others whose beliefs, habits, nationality, or other characteristics are dissimilar from one's own with fairness and objectivity. As William Ury puts it, "tolerance is not just approving with one another or residual unresponsive in the face of unfairness, but rather presenting respect for the vital humanity in every person."

Being intolerant means failing to respect and value the customs, beliefs, and practices of other people. For instance, there is a great deal of animosity between Israeli Jews and Palestinians, who have differing views on identity, security, self-determination, statehood, the right of return for refugees, the status of Jerusalem, and many other topics. Violence and intergroup conflict continue as a result.

The Causes and Effects of Intolerance

  • In The Media − The press and media's portrayals of different groups have an impact on people's perceptions. For instance, many Serbian communities thought that the western media during the NATO bombing of Kosovo and Serbia conveyed a derogatory image of the Serbian people. It's possible that this dehumanization made the West more willing to destroy Serbia. Studies have found that media pictures may not always have an impact on people, nevertheless. For instance, research on stereotypes found that residents of particular communities in southeast Australia disagreed with the unfavorable portrayals of Muslims in the media.

  • Between Individuals − People form ideas and perceptions about one another based on assumptions when they lack personal experiences to draw from. The beliefs of those who are either closest to them or have the most influence on them, such as parents, other family members, coworkers, teachers, and/or role models, can have a favorable or negative impact on these presumptions.

  • In Education − There are books and curricula for schools that present skewed or unfavorable histories of various cultures. Instead of fostering cultural knowledge and tolerance for diversity and differences, education or schooling based on myths can denigrate and demean other civilizations.

The Significance of Tolerance

Starting at home is where one should begin to practice tolerance. Accepting our children's and life partners reasonable expectations is important. Even if we should strive to convince others with argument and counseling if they are headed in the wrong direction, we shouldn't push our thoughts and beliefs on them. It has been noted that a lack of tolerance and patience can lead to the breakdown of family structures and relationships. The other spouse has a responsibility to show tolerance if the other is angry, and vice versa.

Religious Tolerance

Hindus, Christians, Buddhists, Muslims, and other religious groups can all be seen with their swords drawn in the majority of the world. Even inside a religion, factions and sects fight with one another to enforce their beliefs. It is imperative that we respect and accept the beliefs of people who practice different religions; otherwise, the world will fall into chaos and social instability will persist.

Zero Tolerance

Every violation of a clearly stated rule will result in punishment under a zero-tolerance policy. Zero tolerance rules restrict those in positions of power from using discretion or modifying punishments to fit the situation subjectively; instead, they are obligated to administer a predetermined punishment regardless of an individual's level of guilt, any mitigating circumstances, or their past. No matter how mild or harsh the penalty, it is always administered.

Tolerance As a Moral Virtue

We can think of tolerance in a different way if we situate it in the moral realm and acknowledge that it is a moral virtue. Recent philosophers have frequently connected respect, equality, and liberty with tolerance. People like Michael Dusche, John Rawls, and Michael Walzer, among others, contend that tolerance should be seen as a positive civic and moral obligation between people, regardless of race, creed, or culture. In other words, it is a moral duty that calls for both respect for the person and for others, as well as mutual regard and consideration.

Conflicting assertions of beliefs, values, and ideas can exist between people as long as they adhere to morally acceptable standards, thanks to tolerance. Therefore, while various marital customs can be justified by morally acceptable standards, sexual abuse of children is wrong and cannot be permitted. Tolerance, in my opinion, is a necessary element of societal cohesion and a countermeasure against intolerance and prejudice.

Tolerance may only be seen as a positive moral virtue when it is considered in the context of fairness, justice, respect, and avoiding doing harm to others. The view that tolerance belongs more in the moral realm is supported by psychological studies. Fairness and empathy are the best proxies and predictors of tolerance for human difference, according to my own studies with my students. Fairness and empathy are also intimately related to the formation and application of moral principles. Any cogent moral philosophy must start with these.


There is no question that the most essential trait for our daily lives is tolerance. We can eradicate all internal envy-related suffering if we cultivate tolerance. Our soul will then live in tranquility and contentment. From an early age, tolerance should become a habit for kids. They should follow the elders' advice in this regard.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. What do you mean by Drought tolerance?

Ans. The capacity of a plant to continue producing biomass in arid or drought conditions is known as drought tolerance. Some plants have defense mechanisms like desiccation tolerance, detoxification, or xylem embolism repair that enable them to survive in dry environments.

Q2. Define the term Fault tolerance?

Ans. A system's ability to maintain normal operation in the event that one or more of its components fail due to a fault is known as fault tolerance. In contrast to a system that is naively constructed, where even a tiny failure might result in catastrophic collapse, if its operating quality reduces at all, the decrease is proportional to the degree of the failure. In high-availability, mission-critical, or even life-critical systems, fault tolerance is especially desired. Graceful degradation describes the capability of preserving functionality when parts of a system fail.

Q3. What is Drug tolerance?

Ans. A pharmacological notion known as drug tolerance or drug insensitivity describes people' diminished response to a substance after repeated use. The effects of the medicine may be amplified again by increasing the dosage, although this may hasten tolerance development and further blunt the drug's effects. Drug tolerance is a sign of drug use but is not always a sign of drug addiction or dependence.

Updated on: 11-May-2023


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