On Tolerance, Pain and Patience
In the Hebrew language, each word has a root central to its meaning. If two different words have the same root, they’re related.
In Hebrew, the words, “patience,” “tolerance,” and “pain” share the same root, SVL: (SaVlanut, SoVLaNut, SeVeL). And it makes sense.
It is painful to tolerate somebody who thinks differently than you. And, to have tolerance, you must have patience to listen to their disagreements. If you cannot listen patiently to others who think differently than you, you will demonstrate a lack of tolerance. To listen patiently and tolerate what those disagreeing with you are saying, is painful.
One of the reasons there is destructive conflict, ie no tolerance, ie no capability to learn from each other’s differences, is the inability to take the pain such interaction entails. Tolerance will be low if patience evaporates.
We live in a time of rapid change. Time is precious. Everybody is stressed. The more developed a country is, the more stressed its people are about time. Look at the United States: people are much more stressed in New York than they are in Montana; the rate of change is higher in New York than in Montana.
What happens when people feel pressed for time? What happens when people are running from one subject to another, unable to give any one subject enough time? Patience disappears. When patience disappears, tolerance does as well. Pain stemming from conflict mushrooms.
I suggest that one of the reasons destructive conflicts in modern society are so prevalent, manifested by the breakdown of families, the rise of racism, the climbing rate of crime, is that it is caused by the increase in the rate of change which causes impatience, which gives birth to intolerance, and the result is destructive conflict.
What to do on an interpersonal level?
If somebody comes to you and says, “I need to talk to you about something very important, but I’m really under time pressure, I have no time, so let’s try to do it fast,” don’t fall into that trap.
Do not have the conversation unless the subject is something very simple and the other party only needs you to say “yes” or “no”. If you detect the smallest potential for conflict, refuse to discuss it. Say, “When you have time, let’s discuss it—but not now.”
What to do when we are personally in conflict with our own ideas? We need to slow down. How? I suggest to meditate before dealing with major issues that are pregnant with potential conflict.
Ichak Kalderon Adizes
Founder and CEO, Adizes Institute Worldwide