Does becoming tolerant mean letting oneself be manipulated?

by Chaitanya CharanJanuary 17, 2024

From: P shah

Does becoming tolerant mean succumbing in situations where people try to be manipulative with you?


Question by P. Shaha: Does becoming tolerant mean succumbing to situations where people try to be manipulative with you? 
Answer : Not at all. Tolerance does not mean that we allow others to trample on us. Tolerance essentially means that we don’t allow others to have undesirable effects on us.
You can read the article in the site – The Power of Humility and Tolerance ( Srila Prabhupada explains that one’s greatness has to be estimated by the ability to tolerate provoking situations. That means, when somebody comes and agitates us, at that time, if we blow up, then we may blow up the relationship, we may blow up our cool, and we may blow up the opportunity to get the particular work or service done.
Now, it doesn’t mean that blowing up is wrong. But tolerance enables us to choose the right response under specific situations. Like, if we are driving a vehicle and somebody cuts us in front of the road, then some people just start seething with rage and swearing, and they get high blood pressure although the person who has cut their way has gone long away. So, at such times, tolerance can help us to not get affected by the inevitable inconveniences that we experience in life. If we are working on a computer and the power just shuts down, or the computer temporarily breaks down, tolerance means that we will not let ourselves be affected by this.
Now, that doesn’t mean that we just sit passively. We also have to be active to see how the power can be restored, how the computer can be brought back to functionality. So, the essence of tolerance is not passivity. If we are merely passive, then we will be exploited, manipulated by others. But the essence of tolerance is to choose the appropriate response. That can range anywhere from activity to passivity and in between. So, in some cases, tolerance may require that we respond assertively. If in our workplace, our work is getting delayed because somebody else is being irresponsible and not completing their part of the work in time then we being tolerant doesn’t mean that we just passively let the complacency to continue and then bear the brunt of the criticism for the delayed output. We have to be assertive. We may have to tell the necessary authorities and make sure that it gets done.
So, tolerance may involve activity sometimes. But as I said, tolerance may also involve passivity sometime. If somebody just cut ahead of us and goes away, then it is better to be cool and not get agitated.
So essentially, tolerance is not about the external response, but it is about the motivation for that response. The tolerant person knows what is important, what is less important and what is unimportant in life. And in order to focus on that which is important, the person knows how to put aside that which is unimportant or less important.
Thus, tolerance enables us to prioritize what should get our attention. Just like, even in normal sense, if we are sitting in a place which is very hot, but if we are focused on a particular work, we know it is important and are absorbed in doing it, then we can tolerate the heat. But if we have nothing very interesting or important to do and we are sitting around trying to kill time then we will start feeling the room is very hot, it becomes intolerable. We want a fan, we want an AC, we start cursing the room. Why? Because there is nothing more important to attract and absorb our minds.
So, the essence of tolerance is to recognize what is most important in our life and to not let less important or unimportant things distract us from that which is important. And for that which is important, we don’t have to be passive. We have to be assertive.
We have to do the needful to ensure that what is important to us is done. But for that which is unimportant for us, we need not bother. Bhagavad Gita (02.14), for example, uses the word tolerance in the sense –
Oh Arjuna, tolerate the non-permanent appearance and disappearance of happiness and distress just as we tolerate the appearance and disappearance of seasons.
So, Krishna is indicating over here that just as the seasons are inevitable and they will change and they will to some extent affect us by their changing conditions, but a wise person will neglect that and focus on what is important for him or her. So, similarly, he says that Arjuna, you are feeling unhappy right now, you are feeling sad or miserable but neglect these feelings and focus on what is important for you. Do your duty as a lawmaker, as a member of the royal family to protect the innocent from the demoniac, the ungodly.
So, Krishna’s urging Arjuna to be tolerant didn’t mean that Krishna told Arjuna that let Duryodhana and the Kauravas trample on you and do all kinds of injustices to you and you just sit passively and tolerate. No, Krishna told Arjuna that as your duty and as a member of the administrative class or the royal class, it is for you to protect your citizens and for that you need to ensure that the administration is in the right hand. What is important for you, you have to be assertive about it.
But while being assertive about it, you may not like doing particular activities, you may not like fighting with those with whom you had loving relationships, but neglect that, tolerate those feelings because they are temporary. The call of duty is far more important. So, similarly with us, we have to understand what is more important and in order to give our time and energy and attention for that which is important, we need to have the ability of tolerance so that we can neglect and put aside that which is unimportant, which can also suck away our time and energy if we don’t have the ability of tolerance.
Thus, the essence of tolerance is careful prioritization and focus on the important things based on our prioritization. Thank you.

End of transcription.

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Chaitanya Charan

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