While browsing through my Facebook news feed this morning, I came across an article that addressed some of the challenges faced by members of the transgender community. It struck a chord with me. I realised that I have no idea whatsoever what it must be like to be a transgender person. It occurred to me that this realisation might be the beginning of real tolerance in myself.
I’ve experienced a lot of pressure to have an opinion about everything. That’s just a part of how I interact with people. In any topic of conversation, the question “What do you think?” will typically be directed at just about everyone, including me, at some point or other. As a result, I’ve felt the need to have opinions on subjects that are vastly outside my own experience.
Examples of these subjects would be: the challenges faced by women in the workplace; how legislation should be changed to accommodate homosexual people; abortion; solutions to the seemingly endless challenge of poverty; legalisation (or not) of recreational drug use; the position of Islam in global conflict.
Those subjects (which are but a tiny sample of a potentially endless list) have one thing in common: I have no useful knowledge about them.
And yet I so often allow myself to have an opinion that is based on nothing at all. And that opinion can so easily turn into judgement and prejudice.
I don’t have to have an opinion. I can simply not know. And that seems like a good starting point for tolerance. I can encounter people who are different to me without needing to decide if I approve of the ways in which they are different. I can simply be and offer them the space to be.