In the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle proposed that humans are social, rational animals that seek to “live well.”
To that end, he proposed a system of ethics designed to help us reach eudaimonia, a world that means living well or flourishing.
Eudaimonia is reached by living virtuously and building up your character traits until you don’t even have to think about your choices before making the right one.
Aristotle sees virtues as character traits and tendencies to act in a particular way.
There are various interpretations of Aristotle’s 11 virtues, and I use the ones below. Consider the wonderful approach that each virtue is the “golden mean” between “vices” of excess and deficiency.
The midpoint between cowardice and recklessness. The courageous person is aware of the danger but goes in any way.
The virtue between overindulgence and insensitivity. Aristotle would view the person who never drinks just as harshly as the one who drinks too much.
The virtue of charity, this is the golden mean between miserliness and giving more than you can afford.
The virtue of living extravagantly. It rests between stinginess and vulgarity. Aristotle sees no reason to be ascetic but also warns against being flashy.
The virtue relating to pride, it is the midpoint between not giving yourself enough credit and having delusions of grandeur. It is a given that you also have to act on this sense of self-worth and strive for greatness.
This is the virtue that controls your temper. The patient person must neither get too angry nor fail to get angry when they should.
The virtue of honesty. Aristotle places it between the vices of habitual lying and being tactless or boastful.
At the midpoint between buffoonery and boorishness, this is the virtue of a good sense of humor.
While being friendly might not seem like a moral virtue, Aristotle claims friendship is a vital part of a life well lived. This virtue lies between not being friendly at all and being too friendly towards too many people.
The midpoint between being too shy and being shameless. The person who has the right amount of shame will understand when they have committed a social or moral error but won’t be too fearful not to risk them.
The virtue of dealing fairly with others. It lies between selfishness and selflessness. This virtue can also be applied in different situations and has various forms that it can take.
TOLERANCE requires temperance, patience and justice
To me, “Tolerance” means:
Reflecting upon your own situation, or someone else’s situation or another person’s offerings or being, and understanding what you know to be true about it; realising we all have some thing in common.
It is about being aware of a person’s intentions and emotional and mental state, and accepting these, if they are not obviously destructive, i.e. accommodating these through being patient or biding your time and holding space, and being temperate or balanced and not demanding, and through being just or fair.
TOLERANCE = DEEP ACCEPTANCE
People tend to confuse tolerance or accepting something, with agreeing with or liking something, or allowing something to continue
I can hear people right now shouting “How can you tolerate violence?” or similar, from an endless list, including poverty, bullying, starvation, damaging weather or climatic conditions, and illnesses.
Well, I am not talking about tolerance as “putting up with something” or telling people to “grin and bear it” (or in terms of other cliches which I am sure, abound, like “keep a stiff upper lip”).
I am no Dalai Lama or psychologist, and neither have I studied any field of psychology or sociology or gone into depth looking at any of the thought systems or “teachings”of Aristotle or Descartes, Shakespeare, Maslowe, Jung, Mother Teresa, or Princess Diana.
All I can offer are my own personal experiences, which include these milestones:
- Born in 1963 in Malaya.
- Put into an orphanage when a few weeks old (parents too poor to look after me).
- Flown over to Australia at 15 months of age.
- Somehow got out of my cot when I was a baby, and into my sister’s cot (for safety and companionship).
- Formally adopted at age 3.
- Burnt my hand badly when I was toddler (hot iron was left on the floor). Later my mother told me that when this happened, I didn’t even cry and she only discovered the burn when she was getting me ready for a bath.
- Told during my first year at Primary school that I was adopted (which confused me a lot).
- Abused by several adoptive brothers from the age of eleven.
- Mocked and teased by other 11 /12-year-olds during my last year at primary school when I was 11 going on 12, e.g. I was called “twit” or “twot”.
- Subjected to racism in the education system and in the community at large, up until now.
This racism included being mocked when I as at University between age 17 and 20, and a visiting school-kid in the library saying to her friend “What did she say? Get the Japs?” and her friend saying “They’re here to buy the library.”
This included my thinking about buying a blonde wig and wearing it 24 / 7 so that I would fit in, despite the fact that from 15 months of age I was brought up as an Australian.
Please note that the list above is not to garner pity or to incite angry people into responding “So what?” or “Who cares?” or “You’re not the only one” ( Yes, there are all sorts in this World ), but if you are TOLERANT enough to see it, my sharing is about how I tolerated what some may call intolerable (or at least is about how I tolerated what I tolerated).
Some happenings in my personal life were close to intolerable, like feeling traumatized from abuse and identity conflict and racism, but an inner spark of knowing that I am the same as anyone else, in terms of “worth” or “value” and humanity, kept me going.
I learned the limits of what I can tolerate or what will be intolerable for me personally. It may sound “cheesy” but I had no choice but to accept some things that literally happened to me.
There is a little discussed twin of tolerance, and that “twin” is transformation.
Deep acceptance or tolerance of something leads to transformation because you change what you don’t like or what stresses you; and/or you open yourself up to learning or finding something new and/or you find creative ways to support someone else or to manifest your and/or other people’s growth.
If you focus on the intolerable, what you prefer not to tolerate will constantly appear in your Life.
Here are some words for INTOLERABLE and my response to them from my Life experiences.
Insufferable: unbearable arrogance or conceit
Aren’t we all a little bit insufferable? What portrays as arrogance or conceit to one person may be leadership and confidence to another.
If you find someone as “insufferable”, in your humility try to counter-balance them by explaining your entitlements and opinions, and don’t shore up or encourage them, but correct them if you have got the facts right and they are wrong.
When you’re in an argument with your spouse or partner and mad at their insufferable behavior or words, could it be that underlying what they say is a point or several that are helpful or true?
It’s just that you want them to act in a certain way, so you don’t see that they are holding up a mirror reflecting something about you.
Unbearable or Unendurable
Of course, something may physically be unbearable.
I’m not denying the reality or the adverse or traumatic effects of that, but has this ever happened to you, and if yes, how often?
If it has what steps did you take to stop it and prevent it from happening again?
For example, when I was a teenager I couldn’t sleep. Actual physical things prowled around my bed and these were manifestations of my own energy field which emanated from a terrified and traumatized child to take on a physical life that were real monsters to me.
Time after time I would slip into my sister’s room and curl up at the end of her bed, to flee the monsters and to get a little rest. My sister, bless her, always welcomed me and this gave me great comfort and safety.
I stressed out about whether to tell anyone that I had been abused, but having been threatened not to tell, the threats won. I did what I could — I accepted what was happening but I didn’t like it and I constantly thought about how to get out of the nightmare that I was in.
On the flip side, I have had many tests at hospitals in my Life and once I was injected with a dye which made me really hot all over.
Just when I was going to shout at the nurses that it was unbearable, it stopped (it only lasted about 30 seconds).
Insupportable or unsupportable — someone else’s behavior or viewpoint that is not able to be supported.
If I say “I support you” does that mean psychologically or emotionally I support you, and if yes, that means that you are being supported psychologically or emotionally, if you accept it.
A child may want the moon to be made from green cheese, and this cannot be manifested or supported, but you can explain to the child why.
You are supporting the child’s imagination or interest. Unsupportable behavior or thoughts may largely be in the eye of the beholder.
Supporting someone or something is not about magically making things appear out of thin air, but is about agreeing with and allowing something that you personally agree with, and keeping in mind that, of course, we can agree to disagree.
Letting someone know that you don’t hold the same views as them is actually supporting that person if you let them know respectfully, because the person will then know where they stand with you.
People confuse disagreeing with something as thinking that the something is being unsupported. If one person (doesn’t have to be you) supports what you disagree with, then that something is being supported.
Usually, unsupportable behavior means socially unaccepted behavior, but consider that the acceptance of something or not is part of the social “mores” or constructs of a collection of people over time and location, and can change, and has changed.
At times in my own life, things have seemed unbearable or unendurable to me. I tolerated them by passively allowing them, but consider that the passive allowing of a child is, of course, a survival mechanism. If I had spoken up or tried to defend myself, I would have been hurt for doing so.
My first lesson in active tolerance was tolerance of racism against me in the 1970s and 80s mostly. When I realized that I would always be treated as an unwanted foreigner by someone, just because I looked Asian, this was my first lesson in tolerance.
Tolerance was a matter of my not denying that it was happening, even while I disagreed with it and while it upset and scared me.
It is very important, I think, to note that tolerance as endurance does NOT necessarily mean encouraging or letting something undesirable continue.
Of course, some people may have to let a real intolerable situation continue, for fear of their life, or for survival, but many people don’t have to.
Nelson Mandela tolerated 27 years of imprisonment, partly knowing that others would be carrying out peaceful activist work and that he had the choice to continue with his work when he was released.
There were certainly unbearable moments for Nelson Mandela during his imprisonment, for example, hearing about the death of his mother but not being allowed to attend her funeral.
The word “tolerate” comes from the 16th century, and meant to endure pain, and thus today it is touted as meaning “to tolerate or put up with someone or something that is different to you” or “to put up with difficulties.”
But consider that Life is not easy for any of us. I am sure that “pain” is something that everyone has endured or tolerated, whether it has been physical pain or emotional or psychological pain or hurt.
The word “tolerate” reduced to “deal with” is the same as the word “Live” as in live your Life.
To live is to tolerate.
To tolerate is to live.
To deal with it is to tolerate it.
Tolerance is not:
Never getting upset or annoyed
Never disagreeing with someone
Always understanding everything that a person does or say.
Tolerance is a virtue, the virtue of deep acceptance that something is happening, and delving into the energy of the something, i.e. having the patience and time, and taking the effort to understand where someone is coming from, and looking at the details and the questions behind something, and at the answers to how the situation can be answered or improved respectfully.
Some may say you can’t respect a mass murderer, etc. but you can respect the human-made system that puts the person on trial and that sentences them for their transgressions.
You can acknowledge what has happened, and can release your true emotions of anger, grief, sorrow and hurt, without recourse to revenge which is about you, not the other, and with restorative justice in focus.
Tolerance of horrific events neither means “sweeping it under the rug” and not caring or doing anything about it, nor does it means saying publicly “we stand together and won’t be cowed by this” which can send a false message that we expect and allow things like this to happen.
As put before, tolerance is about having the patience and time, and taking the effort to understand where someone is coming from, and looking at the details and the questions behind something, and at the answers to how the situation can be answered or improved.
In my Book of Life, if a virtue is a moral standard of behavior, tolerance is the greatest virtue.