Celebrate > Tolerate
Both are nouns. Tolerance and Celebration.
In the dictionary, tolerance is defined as "the ability or willingness to tolerate the existence of opinions or behaviour that one dislikes or disagrees with."
When used in a sentence, one can see tolerance is very much used in a a negative sense such as, "the tolerance of corruption"
The dictionary also defines "celebration." Celebration is defined as "the action of celebrating something important."
When placed next to the term of tolerance, one can see a celebration is put in a positive sense such as: "the birth of his son was a cause for celebration"
It is important to take a look at the synonyms. Synonyms assist us when truly understanding words. The positivity emanating from the term "celebration" is captured by two of our favorite synonyms: "jollification" and "Merrymaking." What gets better than the word "jollification?" Or, can anyone truly declare there is anything more positive than to make something merry as in the term "merrymaking?"
Furthermore, it is also important to look at the verb forms. To tolerate is very passive. We can be forced to tolerate another group or a specific faith. Governments and laws can force us to tolerate. But, to celebrate. This is very active. We choose to celebrate. Synonyms of the term celebrate also include "recognize, acknowledge," which are very active. We choose to recognize someone, we choose to acknowledge some thing.
No matter who you are, surely we can agree it is more active and more positive to celebrate as compared to merely tolerate. If we are honest, we ourselves want to be celebrated more than merely tolerated. When we take time think about it, surely we do not want to be on the opposite end of tolerance, perhaps to find out later that someone we know, respect, or love and admire is just tolerating us. On the other hand, we know full well the times in our lives where our life has been touched by someone who has made an active choice to celebrate us. To be celebrated does not necessarily mean the one doing the celebrating agrees with everything we do, every word we say, every belief we may hold... however, it does communicate to us that we have value and we are worth celebrating. Celebrating someone has the ability to change the trajectory of the one being celebrated, it has the ability to display love and true care for that person.
We are currently living in Penang, Malaysia. It is a place that is diverse. Diverse and heterogeneous in every sense. Multiple languages spoken. Numerous ethnicities rubbing elbows with each other every day. Many faiths represented in overt fashion. Different gods worshiped.
In addition, hearing the call to prayer from atop a mosque is a daily occurrence multiple times per day. Walking past colorful and ornate Hindu temples is common. Breathing in incense from around the corner of a historic Buddhist temple is a regular experience. And, for us... we have found places of Christian worship here as there are ample churches and Christians. In fact, as we prepare to post this blog post, there is a Buddhist ceremony occurring next door to us in which we are hearing bells ring and the singing of voices. This is just hours after we, ourselves, join in with Christians at a local Penang church.
You see, Penang and specifically the primary city of George Town is perhaps the most culturally diverse place we have visited. We have visited places that are heterogeneous and had multiple shades of people and a wide-range of beliefs but nothing quite like what we experience in Penang. To further illustrate the unique make-up of Penang, one has to look no further than Harmony Street. This street in George Town is home to the Kapitan Keling mosque which sits up tall and beautiful, the Sri Mahamariamman Hindu temple with all its colors, the Kuan Yin Taoist temple sitting mysteriously as it has for years, and the historical Saint George's Church which has been a place of service to citizens in George Town for more than 200 years. These places of worship sit around a place locals refer to as Harmony street because of how they co-exist. They are neighbors. Harmony Street is adjacent to a very popular road named Love Lane. One of our taxi drivers told us recently, "everyone celebrates everyone. Festivals. Celebrations. Holidays. We all celebrate everything." Did you see that? Our taxi driver (named Ooi) indicated the Penangites do not merely tolerate, but celebrate. Others actively press in to help others feel special, feel valued. To, in essence, live in harmony.
In the end, isn't this what all of us want? As Christ-followers ourselves... can we argue against that? We don't think so. Did not Jesus value others outside his own religious tradition? We wonder how valued the Samaritan woman at the well felt after Jesus actively acknowledged her and encouraged her. We wonder how the gentiles of Jesus' day felt as the Jew named Jesus welcomed them in to His life.
We are finding choosing to actively celebrate and explore someone's differences versus simply tolerating them can break down a conscious or subconscious barrier of entitlement and fear directed toward another people group. Shifting to a perspective of exploration and curiosity instead of assuming you already have a grasp on who or what someone or something is, allows for personal growth both in knowledge and understanding of a specific culture or specific tradition different from your own.
If you seek to value others, no matter your subscribed faith or indifference to spiritual things, then we encourage you to refuse to merely tolerate and instead celebrate. Look for foods to taste and delight. Search for holidays in which to revel. Explore a new custom. Learn a new language. Whatever it is, do not settle for tolerance and instead resolve to celebrate.
Simply exploring the difference between tolerance and celebration is a step in the right direction toward choosing to celebrate.