Tolerance or Acceptance?

During our trip to Lisbon earlier in 2022, we came across a memorial stone for the Jewish massacre that took place back in 1506 AD. In this case it wasn’t, obviously, the Nazis who committed the massacre but instead it was organised by the religious Catholic fanatics who killed hundreds of people whom they claimed to be Jews.

This led me to ponder, being Pride month and all, about the intolerance and fear of the unknown that seems to be inherent to us humans. Is this so-called fear of darkness something that has been coded into our genes from the times when we lived in caves, or is it something different? Do we really need positive affirmations each and every day, year, decade, and even a century, to keep ourselves positive – and tolerant?


Next to the Jewish memorial, the City of Lisbon has erected a wall to remind everyone that Lisbon is a City of Tolerance, so that something like the sad events of 1506 AD would not happen again. And maybe this is a good thing – for two reasons.

1) Lisbon, and Portugal as a whole, are admitting that there are darker periods in their history and that it doesn’t help to just brush everything under the rug, but in order for them to move forward as a better nation and better people these dark times need to be addressed and brought into the light. Many nations are struggling with their past just because of this reason.

2) This kind of memorial wall is a visible reminder that discrimination in Lisbon is not accepted. And maybe this is one of the reasons that Lisbon is one of the most LGBTIQ friendly cities in Europe.

I know that it is a silly notion that there should be these kinds of visible reminders, like a wall with affirmations, that discrimination is not to be tolerated, but maybe we need it? Maybe it will, over the course of years, help us to rewire the genetic coding that tells us that we should fear the dark.

And as a city, over the years, decades and centuries Lisbon has really learned to tolerate differences between people and to grow as a tolerant multicultural, multisexual, and multireligious city.

But is tolerance enough, or is it just a difference in the language?

Tolerance OR Acceptance?

Lisbon is a City of Tolerance, in lieu of the 1506 events, but is it enough? Should it be a city of acceptance instead?

As English is not my first language, maybe it is the cause why I think that tolerance and acceptance are two very different things. They may, in some cases, overlap and be used as synonyms, but for me there is a difference.

In my line of work we speak of pain tolerance. At the same time we try to prevent pain so that it wouldn’t become chronic pain because over the years, when pain management wasn’t fully understood, some people had to grow to accept the fact that they live with constant pain. In the same way, some religious fanatics could tolerate LGBTIQ+ people but would they accept us as their equals?

In my opinion, it can be looked at as that when we tolerate a certain group of people in our lives, they may cause discomfort and we don’t really like to have any contact with them as long as possible, but if we accept them as part of our social circles, then we have a proper, functioning relationship with them.

It led me to wonder, should we, as a community, strive to be more accepting than tolerating?

As I have mentioned earlier on the subject of pain, is it not so that when we have pain and we can tolerate it, we don’t need to do anything. We just go on our daily lives, avoiding any movements that cause it. But if we can’t tolerate that pain anymore, we will take some paracetamol, hoping it will go away. But if the pain continues despite medication, we have to accept it and to learn to live with it. Maybe even seek out information about it to see if there is anything we can do that would help to heal the pain.

This applies basically to anything in our lives. To avoid unnecessary confrontations with your neighbour, learn about them and let their presence enrich your life instead of thinking that they are so different that you have nothing in common.

If we listen to the news and let their clickbait rhetoric be the only point of reference to our knowledge for, for instance, LGBTIQ+ people or Muslims, we can definitely tolerate, but not to accept. For me, and many others being gay is so much more than wild, sex-crazed parties during the Pride Month (and oh, so much more domesticated). You hardly see anyone on Pride newscasts telling how their wonderful gay neighbour was just mowing the lawn and hosted a nice candlelit supper. And being a Muslim is not about being a bigoted hater of the western world and their way of life, but it is a way of life where the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) are paramount. And no, his teachings are not about hate and intolerance towards everyone else. I suggest you take a detour and read my blog about Al-Andalus as I have used one of the earliest contracts the Prophet (s.a.w.) made with the Christians at the time.

If you wish to know more about either examples mentioned above, send me a message and I can share more knowledge with you. As a matter a fact, I would be more than happy so to do!

As it is Pride Month, if you have any LGBTIQ in your family or circle of friends, reach out to them and tell them that they matter and that you love them as they are. There are enough good things left unsaid in the world.

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