Tolerance empowers us when we focus on our purposefulness, not on our powerlessness

Some people feel that tolerating makes them powerless: “If things are going wrong and I just tolerate them without doing anything about them, am I not passively giving in to the situation?”

Not necessarily. When we tolerate a situation, our purpose is not to give in to that situation, but to take on some other situations. 

Suppose we are studying in a crowded, noisy, messy environment. If that is the only place we have to study, we may decide that we just need to tolerate. However, while tolerating, if we keep dwelling on how powerless we are and keep lamenting about our situation, then we aren’t helping ourselves. Instead, if we use our tolerance to dwell on our purpose of studying and on how important and interesting our studies are, then that focus will make our studies increasingly absorbing, fulfilling and fruitful. Eventually, our studies will empower us to create a better life for ourselves and for our loved ones. 

Thus, even if we initially started tolerating because of our powerlessness, we need to eventually tolerate based on our purposefulness. Only when we focus on our purpose will we discover the empowering effects of tolerating. Indeed, people who achieve anything worthwhile choose their battles by tolerating; they focus on fixing some things while living with other things. 

Significantly, it’s instructive to see how the Bhagavad-gita (02.14) frames its call for tolerance by revealing a higher identity initially (02.13) and then revealing a higher purpose (02.15). First, it stresses that our core is spiritual, beyond all material changes (02.13). Then, it highlights the fruit of tolerating: spiritual realization, that is, realizing our indestructible identity and raising our consciousness to relish inexhaustible joy (02.15). 

Thus, when we let our tolerance be guided by higher knowledge and purpose, tolerance becomes empowering, extraordinarily empowering.  


Think it over:

  • How may tolerance disempower?
  • How can purposefulness empower us amid disagreeable situations?
  • How does the Gita frame its call for tolerance? How does such framing affect the result of tolerating? 


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1 Comment

  1. TOLERANCE is Indian character

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