So much of the vitriol in public conversation these days stems from self-righteousness, or so it seems to me. My motives are better than yours. My ideas are smarter than yours. My feelings are more caring than yours. My thoughts are more thoughtful than yours. When we think this way, it’s an easy jump to say, “I no longer need to listen to you, anymore.” Unfriend. It’s that simple. Unfriend. Unfriend. Unfriend. Delete. Delete. Delete. Are you sure? Yes. Delete. Now, we’re comfortable among our own. The divisions grow. And a house divided against itself cannot stand.
Forbearance, on the other hand, allows us to say, instead, “I might learn something from you. Maybe there is another way to look at this. I hadn’t thought of that.” It comes from the humility of understanding that nobody knows everything about anything. Come, let us reason together.
The dynamic you see dividing us along political lines has done similar damage in the church, where instead of worshipping at a parish with neighbors who may not see eye to eye on every question of doctrine and parish, we select congregations where we are most comfortable, by which we really mean, attended by people with the same blind spots.
Thus we reduce the risk of rubbing shoulders with people who don’t agree with us on everything. We don’t have to learn how to listen to, persuade, or simply get along with people holding other viewpoints.
We have become a culture that values tolerance above all, except when others challenge our presumptions. Tolerance divides, because it does not require discourse. Forbearance seeks engagement, especially when we see error. “I see your point, but let me share with you why I disagree.”