Tolerance Gone Rogue During the Holidays

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness   Nancy Virden (c)2013

“Christmas is not even celebrated by Christians the same day of the year around the world”, Alex mused as he sipped his coffee. “So why do people around here get so fanatic about it? As if they own December!”

“This is America”, came the reply. “If people don’t like when we celebrate Christmas, they can live somewhere else.” Alex’ co-worker, Mike, was adamant.

“This IS America.” Alex continued, “We’ve built a nation on freedom of religion, yet somehow Christians seem to have an agenda of their own. Maybe I don’t want a nativity on the City Hall lawn.”

“The nativity is what Christmas is all about. If we take it down, what else is there? Santa Claus?”

Alex paused. It was difficult enough to be a Muslim convert in America, he wasn’t sure he relished opening up the topic with Mike. His stand on Christmas made perfect sense to him, why couldn’t Christians understand?  He decided to try and make his point.

“November and December is a holiday season for many Americans beside Christians. There is Hanukkah for Jewish worshipers, of course.  Bahai, Shinto, Sikh, Buddhist, and even secular special days are celebrated this time of year. Kwanzaa’s focus is on African-American unity and strong families. Even we Muslims have our New Year and Ashura, a Holy Day for us”.

A long pause followed.

“You’re Muslim?” Mike asked incredulously.

“Yes, I’m Muslim. And as such, I don’t want my government exalting one religion above another. It’s been disastrous in the Middle East, and  in other countries citizens are persecuted because of it.”

“Ok, but this is Christmas time”, Mike insisted.

“December 25 is Christmas here in the West. No one is suggesting we cancel your celebration. From what I know of your Jesus”, Alex said cautiously, “he wasn’t about certain days or celebrations. He was about love. I would be more interested in a Christian’s words if he or she actually lived how Jesus said to live.”

Mike was silent as he walked away remembering his morning stop at the convenience store. “I have spent more energy pushing ‘Merry Christmas’ on store clerks than I have saying anything encouraging to them the rest of the year”, he admitted to himself. “And I almost drove a wedge between Alex and me.”

Toleration gone rogue is when it becomes ‘you must agree with me.’ Then each person can have their own measuring device by which to name what is tolerance. 

How does this relate to supporting people who are hurting? Acceptance and toleration are basically the same thing. A mentally ill person struggles, and experiences what a mentally healthy person does not.  Compassionate love says, “I don’t understand, but I see you are struggling, and your pain is more important to me than making my point.”


NOTE: I am not a trained or licensed mental health professional. I am not a doctor. I speak only from my experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help can be yours.

*picture from facebook

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