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Masonic News & Views - Tolerance
May 05, 2014
Greetings Brother,

Although not specifically designated as a Masonic virtue or tenet, tolerance is a foundational principle of Freemasonry. I believe tolerance is not specifically taught in Masonry because it is inherent to most all of our teachings. We have lessons in temperance, prudence, justice, brotherly love and relief, and to succeed at any of these we must also exercise tolerance.

Tolerance at its most basic and simple level, which is where I like to operate, is to make room for or be open to the beliefs of others when those beliefs differ from our own. This is much different than simply to tolerate someone's beliefs or actions. To tolerate means to allow or permit, which inversely implies that we have the power or right to disallow or deny. Tolerance, on the other hand, means to have an interest in and concern for the ideas, opinions, practices, etc., of others that differ from our own.

I've been thinking a lot about tolerance lately because everywhere I look I see such caustic intolerance in our society. I have a confession to make. I am a bit of a political news junkie. I follow the political, societal and civic news probably far more than is healthy, but it’s interesting and the future of our society concerns me. I undertook an experiment this past week to confirm a growing apprehension. Based on my observations I felt certain of the results but I wanted to ground any conclusions on more than observation.

The experiment was simple. I would engage in online political commentary, specifically comment boards of current events. My interest was to see if there were any open lines of communication between differing groups, or if I could find any sign of tolerance. Basically, when I read an article or news story I would also read the comments left by other readers. On some websites the comments were nearly all supportive of a liberal ideology. On others the comments always leaned to the conservative. When appropriate I would post a comment offering an alternative perspective to those I'd read. Not a comment of conflicting ideology, but simply a different viewpoint. Unfortunately, my concerns were validated. Without fail, I was readily attacked. There was no consideration of a differing opinion, and the attacks were not on my opinions or ideas. They were personal. There was no tolerance to be found.

In this world of uncertainty, instability, frustration and aggravation we need tolerance for each other more than ever. We have to realize that regardless of how we came to be in the situation we're in as a people we are in it together, and only by working together can we hope to make things better. We're divided in so many ways, racially, economically, ideologically, spiritually. I believe that by practicing and spreading tolerance we can mend these divisions and find ways to come together as a people.

I admit I don't have much faith in our government, or trust in our elected officials. But, I still have plenty of faith in God and in my fellowman. God is great and man is inherently good. We just have to remind each other that our battles are not with each other but with the problems we face, and we can win if we face them together.

Fraternally yours,

Tim Couch

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