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What is the difference between tolerance and acceptance?

Learning the difference between tolerance and acceptance can be life-changing. For example, the moment we learn not only to tolerate, but also to fully accept our shortcomings, we are free from stress, anxiety, and doubt.

As a small child, I always had to go shopping for groceries with my mom. I never knew which store we went to or how long it would take, so I asked every minute how long we would be on the move.

I didn't reluctantly walk along but instead wanted to be home to continue with my Lego blocks. You could say that I accepted to walk along, but that was far from true. I tolerated it to the limit of my abilities.

The difference between tolerating and accepting is that acceptance has a form of resignation that does not raise any further questions. If every Monday evening around 8 p.m. l have to put the garbage on the side of the road, I can decide to complain about it every week again and again.

The realization that this makes no sense and that I would only hurt myself with that complaint creates a form of resignation. So I accept that I - and not my girlfriend - have to put the garbage bags outside.

How does acceptance work?

When I walk out the front door in the morning, there is a small hedge that I have to pass first. I planted that hedge myself, and it turns red in the winter to turn green again in the spring. I am aware that the hedge is there, but it doesn't bother me.

I don't mind; it's not annoying, also not particularly exciting, and certainly not overwhelming. That hedge is just a hedge standing there. Now that is full acceptance! The hedge may be in scent and color as the hedge thinks it looks good.

How does tolerance work?

When I then step into my car, it takes exactly 4 minutes before I get on the highway. The road to the highway has a limit of 30 miles per hour and very occasionally, an old lady or sleepy businessman drives in front of me at a speed of 20 miles per hour.

That always takes me an extra 2 minutes before I can get stuck in a traffic jam for an hour on the highway. Strangely enough, that annoys me because that person is allowed to drive a little faster so that I don't lose 2 minutes of my precious time.

Because I know that swearing and honking make no sense, in such a case I turn up the radio a little bit and start singing along loudly. I do not accept the situation, but I tolerate that there are people who have yet to learn that the throttle is on the right.

Tolerating or accepting yourself