By Morgan Powell
Intolerance: Lack of toleration; unwillingness or refusal to tolerate or respect contrary opinions or beliefs, persons of different races or backgrounds, etc. — Dictionary.com
The other day I was just minding my own business, walking to my cubicle at work with my hands warm from the steaming brewed cup of joe I was holding. I was just about to flick on the light above my desk when my coworker (we’ll call her Susan) said with such disgust in her voice “Is that coffee?”
My heart thudded frantically as I tried to force an excuse from my lips. I could say it was herbal tea, but the scent was pouring from the lid. It could have been hot chocolate, but the culprit lingered on my lips. All that I could manage was a meek and simple, “yes.”
You see, Susan is a Latter-day Saint, a Mormon. As am I. I was baptized last summer and found faith in the religion. I have had coffee my whole life and grew up in a loving family that drank coffee too. Well, one of church’s guidelines, as you could call them, is the Word of Wisdom, a doctrine in which followers of the faith should not ingest of harmful things or hurt their bodies, coffee being one of those poisons.
Now, why in the hell do you care about me, my religious preference, my warm cup of coffee or my co-worker Susan? Well, you don’t. But you might care about what I’m saying next.
All I could do in those few fateful seconds when “yes” slipped out of my mouth was feel ashamed. But why should I feel ashamed? I wasn’t a murderer, I didn’t hurt, connive, or insult anybody. The reason for my own emotional reaction was because of somebody else’s intolerance for my personal lifestyle.
Intolerance isn’t just found in the LDS religion – it is found in all religions, in all countries, states, cities, neighborhoods and homes. It is found when people are killed for reasons of hatred, when somebody is turned away because of race or gender, when religious people (and non-religious people) clash over personal beliefs, when others are bashed for their sexual preference, or even when a political candidate is attacked for expressing personal opinions.
My good friend and I were discussing this over a lunch break a few days after the incident. She brought up what I believe is the most vital point of all. “Why is it that, when one person strongly believes in something, they feel that it’s their right to police others? Why are they so intolerant?”
It seems to me that the policing of others is something that is so common in our society that’s it’s almost commonplace. We all police others and show blatant intolerance, whether it is a situation I have already mentioned or one much more miniscule, like judging people because of their clothing, their size, the amount of money they make, their standing in church or their intelligence. Maybe even by their drink of choice.
Since that day I have kept this feeling of injustice in my back pocket – until now. I realize how much harm and sadness is brewed by the intolerance of others, and by the intolerance of my own doing. I am going to start having a more open mind, not always offering my opinion on something I don’t like, not flipping off the driver who cuts me off, not getting mad when someone makes a remark about my clothing, and maybe, just maybe, by understanding somebody else’s point of view. Instead of getting riled up about my morning brew, I’ll just smile and say “yes.”