Tolerance: a Nonviolent Tool to Change the World

By Matthieu Ricard on December 25, 2012

Tolerance goes hand in hand with courage, inner strength, and intelligence, the qualities that alleviate mental suffering and prevent us from falling into negative thinking.

If we follow a path of retaliation - ‘an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth' - then, in the words of Gandhi, ‟the world will soon be blind and toothless.” Violence begets violence and leads to disastrous results. We must avoid violence as a solution at all costs; conflicts should be resolved by negotiation and dialogue.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama often speaks of tolerance. Tolerance does not mean ‘go ahead and hurt me,” nor does it imply that we should submit to or ignore malice and wrongdoing. We should neither passively give way to aggression, nor try to destroy those who harm us. If we are the object of abuse or injustice, we need to find the appropriate means to counter this it. It is essential that we find a way to break the cycle of hostility, hatred, and aggression.

We need to always preserve within ourselves invincible compassion and inextinguishable inner strength. The motivation that inspires our actions and the final result of these actions are key. Sweet words said with the intention to deceive may have the appearance of gentleness, but actually they are a form of violence. On the other hand, the act of a mother who roughly shoves aside her child to keep him from being run over by a car may appear to be violent, but is in fact a form of nonviolence.