Growing up as a member of minority groups is difficult, because there is a sense that you are not ‘normal’, so there is a desire to discover what ‘normal’ is. There is a sense of questioning why you are different and a sense of anger that your way, your needs are not tolerated. I struggled with this until I accepted that there is nothing actually wrong with me and accepted myself. The sense of anger comes after reflections that what you are isn’t immoral, so other people shouldn’t be prejudiced against you, yet there continue to be examples of other people not understanding.
There is no such thing as a ‘normal’ person. The majority of people are in the majority on any individual facet of life. some people feel less prejudice due to who they are. However some minorities face differing levels of challenge. Two ‘extreme’ examples:
People over 6′ tall: These people live in a world of discomfort because every standard chair and desk is too small and too low. In society generally, the needs of this minority are not fully appreciated, but few are actively prejudiced against tall people.
Paedophiles: Some peoples minds are such that they are sexually attracted to children. Sex with children is morally one of the worst, if not the worst, abuses humans beings are capable of. If the paedophile is fully aware of themselves and reflected that they should not under any circumstances act on these desires, then there is no problem. What is a problem are the societal barriers for such a person to seek help from a wider misunderstanding society, for help in coming to terms with this facet of themselves. There is a lot of prejudice towards such people
The point being that actually there is no real difference between these examples, yet society in general accepts tall people more readily than the paedophile.
Tolerance is essentially about awareness that everybody is different and to accept everybody without prejudice.
I am reminded of the biblical story of Sodom (Genesis 19). In this story, two angels visit the city of Sodom. The angels are welcomed by Lot, but the remainder of the people in the city seek to do the visitors harm. God removes Lot and his family to safety then unleashes fire and brimstone upon the city of Sodom. My interpretation of the story is that the people of this city have become immoral and sin has become accepted as ‘normal’ in the city. The people of Sodom are intolerant of the visitors as failure to welcome guests is itself an example of intolerance.
When I first read this chapter I was unaware of the connection between the name, Sodom and sodomy, a reference to homosexual practice. Indeed some people interpret this story as ‘evidence’ that homosexuality is a sin against God. This interpretation has led to a long history of discrimination of homosexuals, when actually the message of the story is one of tolerance and the importance of reflecting morally upon ones actions.
I find it strange that as an individual it has taken me some years to accept myself for who I am and be happy. it is better to be open and listen, so that you can understand yourself and other people can understand you (but also to be respectful when people don’t understand you). Yet it has taken society much longer to accept minority sexualities, gender equality, racial equality and many many other minorities. There is still far too much intolerance in the world. Sadly there is still intolerance within Christianity, a force whose message is the promotion of tolerance.