Skip to content

Dancing with Tolerance

“You’ve gotta dance like there’s nobody watching,
Love like you’ll never be hurt,
Sing like there’s nobody listening,
And live like it’s heaven on earth.”

― William W. Purkey

The first time I heard this quote, I loved it. I especially loved the first line; dance like there’s nobody watching. That’s because on the rare occasion that I dance, I feel like everyone is not only watching, but they are at best, secretly smirking and at worst, laughing and pointing. In my reality the only people who get to dance like there’s nobody watching are kids, really old people and professional dancers.

“Dancing like nobody is watching” is to me a picture of freedom and joy. And dancing is frequently done with another person, usually someone you care about. So in addition to expressing freedom and joy, dancing is a connecting activity. Sometimes when I am dancing with someone, I am less concerned about the smirkers and pointers.

So what does this have to do with tolerance? Well, not a whole lot actually. But I thought it might be fun to toss around some ideas about tolerance, like nobody is watching and maybe we could connect with some ideas. So let’s dance with tolerance for a few paragraphs.

Some synonyms in my dictionary for tolerance are patience, sufferance, forbearance, impartiality and open-mindedness. These synonyms have slightly different connotations of meaning. However, all of these meanings imply interaction with other people or with our own personal circumstances. There is a relational aspect to tolerance.

Tolerance has gotten a lot of press recently. As we dance with tolerance, I will share some thoughts expressed by James Emery White, a pastor and author who thinks deeply about our church and our culture. (Click here for his blogs).

He says that tolerance was once more social in its dynamic. That is, tolerance was to be accepting of another person. You could recognize and respect different beliefs without actually sharing those beliefs. There is also a legal aspect of tolerance that says each of us has the right to believe whatever we want.

Recently, he says, tolerance has taken on more of an intellectual definition. To be tolerant is to do away with objective truth and substitute individual truth. It means that we must hold another person’s beliefs as equal to our own. If we say that anything is wrong or inferior, we are not showing tolerance. He calls this intellectual definition of tolerance “intellectual nonsense.” Dance on, James Emery White.

Moving across the dance floor, I have been playing with another idea of tolerance. This gets back to the social/relational aspects of tolerance. Tolerating emotional discomfort, or even emotional pain, is a skill that we can learn for ourselves and pass on to our children. It is important to learn how to “sit with” discomfort, pain and sadness. We all know we are going to be uncomfortable emotionally at times. How much healthier we would be if we learned to tolerate discomfort. And to help each other tolerate discomfort.

We all want to be able to dance through this life with freedom and joy. We all want to be able to express ourselves without fear of what others will say. And we all know that with freedom, comes responsibility. If we are dancing recklessly all over the dance floor, or meadow, or road or wherever it is we dance, and bumping into other people and knocking them over, we are not being very respectful or tolerant of their space.

Hopefully, when we dance with others, in whatever way we dance, we can hold on to the social aspects of tolerance, “I accept you as a person,” or the emotional aspects of tolerance, “I can get through this hard place” and let go of the intellectual aspects of tolerance, “I believe everything you believe.”

As you can see, my thoughts on tolerance are dancing all over the place… just like nobody is watching.

What are your thoughts on tolerating emotions? Other people’s beliefs?
Other ways of living?

What are some of the ways Jesus showed tolerance? Or didn’t?

Read more about this topic:

Healing from Emotional Problems – WDA Pocket Principle from Understanding People

Hide and Seek – Now Where Did I Hide my Emotions? by Buddy Eades

Fight Nice! by David Parfitt