Tolerance Day – The Power of Perspective

By Ken Wells - 11/18/2016


November 16 is recognized by the United Nations as the International Day of Tolerance. From its inception in 1995, Tolerance Day has been used as an opportunity to learn new cultures and increase understanding between people with diverse backgrounds.  Understanding and appreciating the unique perspectives we encounter every day is key to a fulfilling and satisfying life. By living in the United States, we have a unique opportunity to engage with a diverse array of people.

Tolerance Day serves to remind us that sharing ideas is not always a pleasant and cordial experience.  For some, the word tolerance is linked with the idea of acquiescing – of giving up or giving in to an idea they may not completely agree with. In fact, the words tolerance and tolerate may suggest enduring or even resisting something.

Perhaps, then, it is better to think of tolerance as an exercise in perspective. Remaining open to truly hear another’s perspective is the very essence of understanding others and the path toward developing tolerance. It is an educational experience and can affect how you see the world.

Even if what you hear, however, does not mesh with your personal worldview it is an opportunity for an energized and stimulating conversation.  Often, the temptation is to give in to our anger and create an argument.  This generally reflects our fear of difference and what that mean to our beliefs and life.  Most people form their opinions the same way you do: from a combination of experience and reflection. To treat another person’s ideas as foolish or to dismiss them is to disrespect their journey and shut down conversation.

To properly digest another perspective and approach new ideas tolerantly try these three steps:

  1. Honest, attentive listening
  2. Attempting to step into another’s experience
  3. Accepting difference and learning from it

Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes is not just plugging a different view into your own life; it is an explorative process that is best honored through multiple valuing conversations. It is a state of mind, and one that is rewarding and beneficial.

Check out these three Tolerance Day or Perspective themed resources and try it for yourself!

Explore the great work being done around the world for the International Day of Tolerance!


Author Chimamanda Adichie speaks about finding her “cultural voice” by exploring a variety of different perspectives.


PCS therapist Ken Wells shares his poem “The Dance We Always Ever Done”.

The Dance We Always Ever Done
We all do the dance that we always ever done
Whether adult or child
The trance has its Sway
Mamma doesn’t know why daddy leaves or where he goes
we learn to ignore what’s unmistakable and warmly embrace what’s improbable
Cause we all do the dance that we always ever done

From our head we know what’s Right
in our heart we are weak-kneed in the night
So we coddle compromise and dandle with determination to avoid
the reality of pain and the invasion of grief-
we simply do the dance that we always ever done

People are keenly aware and know what to do
That’s not our problem.
Yet, somehow to escape the doom, the gloom and leave no room
for one to question or ponder the possibility of peace that comes through surrender and sweet submission—
We would rather go to war—
Make someone the enemy—
preserve our hegemony—
Because we always do the dance that we always ever done.

Sound bites of wisdom are popular without review
Arrogance is king
pompous, flamboyant discourse – nothing new.
Critical thinking is scarce—reflection and consideration-are overlooked, fragmentary and very sparse—
like a mouse in a cage running around frantically in search of different thought— Still— countries continue to war and migrants are distraught
Even so– we all do the dance that we always ever done

He swears that he has always loved her-
She screams ‘then why do you flirt and chase skirt—
It makes me feel more alive than I know I really am is his response
I’ve never had to face any consequence
That’s why I always do the dance that I’ve always ever done

Oil is drilled deep
We the cost of discovery very steep-
Standing Rock is convulsing-fighting for its very life
its warriors peacefully protect and elders grovel and weep
We fret the price per barrel will stay extremely cheap—
While glacier and polar bear disappear—
Is anybody anxious? Does anybody fear?
No! No!- there is no time for tear—
Cause we got to always do the dance that we always ever done

Michael Brown is down—all crumpled on the ground-he lay still in the street—
He’s been lying there for such a long time-
A pool of blood is his blanket
Death’s coldness wrapped around his feet.
Senseless violence from those sworn to protect
Domination and hatred is what we’ve come to expect —
What do we say to their families?
whose lives are broken with grief and deeply stunned-
Only the hollow rumbling-
that this is the dance we’ve always ever done.

So what does it matter?
How do we tie all of this together?
Just what is this dance that we’ve always ever done?
the focus on thrill – to always have self indulgent fun-
Give me some more of that Almighty grace
Leave no trace?  Just give me my space.
To look out for me and to hell with you—
Doesn’t matter what it costs— just do what you do
to the end fill your coffers- don’t worry ‘bout those who have none
This is the tragic dance that we always ever done.

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