On duty with the navy a couple of weeks ago, the new senior chaplain made it a point to choose a kosher restaurant for lunch. It was a fine gesture. Would that the Chaplain Corps let me be tolerant of Christain practices in return.

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While stationed in Okinawa, all of the 50 or so chaplains there got together quarterly for training. As you might expect we began with a prayer. One day, a young Christian chaplain, who was new to the island, was asked to lead it. He proceeded uneventfully until the end when he said, “in Jesus's name we pray.”

Instantly every eye was on me. For a moment it felt like they thought my head was going to explode!

And the young chaplain was mortified.

In an effort to defuse the situation I said, “it’s okay, he was one of ours first.” Peals of laughter.

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Perhaps I should have been offended that he prayed in a Christian idiom with me there. But though he did so on purpose, there was no malicious intent. As the 1% minority, it seems to me intolerant that I dictate the form of prayer. Rather, I applaud the chaplain’s authenticity.

To Be Tolerant, Let Others Be Different

Tolerance is not forcing others to homogenize their expressions to be inoffensive to me. It is my being secure enough in myself to see or hear things with which I disagree or that may make me uncomfortable.

Any other definition puts my self-esteem in some else’s hands and deprives me of the opportunity to more deeply connect with others. In a pluralistic society, it's of paramount importance to be tolerant. First, you must understand what it really is. Then you must practice it.

What do you think of my definition of tolerance?

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© , Kevin S. Bemel, All Rights Reserved

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