I learned much from my dad when it came to tolerance. He had to put up with a lot from my mother. I watched as a child at the way he navigated his hurt feelings over accusations and recriminations delivered at random moments by his wife. When I was older I couldn’t help but feel he should have stood up for himself more often. Ironically my mom’s intolerance for him led to a temporary separation.
Much of my understanding of tolerance comes from my parents’ examples. How one lives with tolerance is instructive. I’ve learned to recognize differences, inconsistencies, strengths and weaknesses in others. That awareness has helped me feel tolerance, but for a healthy relationship you need a step further: If you want a relationship to last you have to accept the other, flaws and all.
My father worked at a ball bearing manufacturing plant. He used to amaze me with his precision drawings and schematics of all the individual working parts. He had a position in the quality control department towards the end of his career. Long before computer technology, he used specific tools to make the measurements. He talked about perfecting the tolerances so that wear and dysfunction was kept to a minimum. Engineers often worry about stresses on material so they work hard to create designs that increase the tolerance against environmental hazards like weather. The mechanics of anything we build must meet rigid standards to keep risks of injury at a low level. For example, the last condo building I lived in boasted of being erected on top of springs to reduce potential earthquake damage.
Humans can react to life’s challenges on a tolerance spectrum. I have a low tolerance for small talk. My wife can’t tolerate silliness. We all have our pet peeves. Some things can grate on our nerves while other stuff sheds our psyche like water off of a duck’s back. I tried to list my top ten non-tolerances but only got to eight: anger, gambling, tattoos, war, waste, heat, pets and stasis.
We sometimes judge others by their patience or lack thereof. Recently I squirmed along with others in a medical clinic waiting room while an anxious patient pulled a Karen on the receptionist. “I can’t tolerate this medication!” She shouted until the doctor came out to calm her fears. Meanwhile we sat with our own thoughts on how we might have managed such a crisis differently.
Perhaps our tolerance for people or situations mellows with age. Elders have gained wisdom from multiple trials enabling them to better tolerate the shocks of life. Getting older gives us a sense of a continuum more akin to a lazy river rather than a cloverleaf intersection on an interstate highway. A feeling of urgency or desperation can be part of youth which can lead to intolerance and dismissiveness. On the other hand being aged can make us cranky and view the world as something no longer recognizable.
My grandkids will likely have to learn to tolerate a robot’s view of things. Oh my!