What is the difference between tolerance and intolerance?

A just society comprises of two types of people viz. tolerant and intolerant, wherein it tends to tolerate the intolerant. The word tolerate is understood as to allow or to permit, or to recognize and respect others’ beliefs and practices without sharing them and/or to bear or put up with someone or something not necessarily liked. Tolerance inter alia involves three elements:

  1. permitting or allowing;
  2. a conduct or point of view one disagrees with;
  3. while respecting the person in the process.

These three categories are frequently conflated by the drawing room intellectuals. If one rejects another’s ideas or behaviour, he is automatically accused of rejecting the person and being disrespectful. To say I am intolerant of the person because I disagree with his ideas is confused. On this view of tolerance, no idea or behaviour can be opposed regardless of how graciously, without inviting the charge of incivility.


The essential ingredient of tolerance is a person’s disagreement with another but yet respecting his opinion. In contemporary, disagreeing with someone makes you intolerant. This presents a curious problem (a catch 22 situation). One must first think another is wrong in order to exercise tolerance toward him, yet doing so brings the accusation of intolerance.

Notwithstanding the above, the society fails when it becomes intolerant towards the act of intolerance. In the absence of the ability to tolerate the troublemakers, the society becomes intolerant and thus unjust. This results in paradox tolerance.

The paradox tolerance denotes a situation when tolerant people hold antagonistic views towards intolerance and hence become intolerant towards the issue of intolerance. In definition, it is a tolerant becoming intolerant towards intolerance.

A just society comprises of two types of people viz. tolerant and intolerant. It is a perfect permutation and combination wherein the society tends to tolerate the intolerant.

  • The tolerant and the intolerant co-exist.-Inter alia one is tolerant towards the other
  • In the absence of the ability to tolerate the consistent troublemakers, the society becomes intolerant and this results into paradox tolerance.
  • Paradox tolerance is the act of a tolerant becoming intolerant towards intolerance.

Intolerance is of different types- some are of grievous nature, while in some we end up making a mountain of a molehill. Every country suffers from its own catena of issues, where controversies are stirred up by sensationalizing a root cause in the name of religion, region, caste, class, economic diversities etc. I tend to define this as “the therapeutic act of sensationalizing”.

It is similar to serving a cold dish on a hot plate to the people bereft of conscience. Namely, serving a rotten dish in a bowl of gold. No matter how unhygienic, you accept what is served, well- because GOLD.

The prime example would be the controversies surrounding the intolerant acts of blind followers (primarily of mass leaders) and the drawing room intellects, wherein the right wing, the left wing, and the commoners are entangled in the issues of zero importance. 

These propositions reflect the deeply rooted discontent in the largest democracy of the world. It raises the never ending debate of the restriction on the freedom of speech and expression. To the people unaware of said controversies, apparently, the followers of a mass leader in a bad taste of humor poked fun at some liberal intellectuals of the country, one of those also happened to be a civilian award recipient. It sent people mooning over the issue of freedom of speech and expression, and the prescribed limitations to it. Thus, exposing the Indian society’s famous sects ‘the tolerant’ and ‘the intolerant’.

The issue involved the intolerant performing a violent march against the liberals. The tolerant decided to ignore. The intolerant complained about the humorless act which purportedly demeaned India’s honoured intellectuals. Meanwhile, the tolerant sect unaware of the controversy continued to struggle for its daily living.

While on one hand, the metropolitan was busy debating on the issue of freedom of speech and expression over harmless questions raised by citizens of the nation, there were millions struggling to find a voice of their own. 

The above said is common for all societies. It is a common principle that the intolerant sect does not have a right to complaint of intolerance. The freedom should be restricted only when the tolerant are being affected i.e. when the tolerant in all sincerity and reason believe that their security and the institution’s liberty is at risk. Until the tolerant are unaware of their own rights and liberties, making a mountain out of molehill and portraying the same as an issue of national importance reeks of hypocrisy.

I do not imply that there should be unlimited tolerance. It is a known fact that unlimited tolerance leads to the disappearance of tolerance. If unlimited tolerance is extended to those who are intolerant and if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed and tolerance with them.

We should always suppress the utterance of intolerant activities; as long as we can counter them, but only with rational arguments. The check should be made by public opinion. Blatant suppression would be the most unwise. The right to suppress is not and will never be a fundamental right, but a mere right of necessity.

When rationality fails and the intolerant are not prepared to meet the tolerant on the level of rational argument, the intolerant begin to denounce all arguments; they may forbid their followers to listen to rational arguments because it is deceptive and teaches them to answer arguments by the use of their fists or pistols. We should, therefore, claim in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant. But before we decide on that let us think and understand- who is the actual intolerant?

Because the moment you stop tolerating you too become intolerant of the intolerance, ending up becoming one of the intolerants; creating a paradox tolerance in the State.


Your comments, reviews and opinions are highly welcomed. 


5 responses to “What is the difference between tolerance and intolerance?”

  1. Yikes–it’s like trying to follow the game where someone puts a ball or something under a cup, having three cups in a row, then moves them around quickly and you have to guess where the ball is. Intolerance=bad, tolerance=good until tolerance =bad and intolerance=good.

    Blah. Makes me dizzy.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh dear–I just realized you may take this as a criticism, and that’s not how I meant it. I understand what you’re saying, and pretty much agree. What I’m trying to say, I think, is that we’re ALL capable of making mountains out of molehills :)

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Haha, I understand where you are coming from. I cent percent agree with you. Tolerance is good till a limit. One cannot forever be a tolerant and turn a blind eye.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I know what you mean and i’m constantly at war with myself over this.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. True. These are the two sides of the same coin.


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