Be Intolerant

We are proposing that there are two primary things you need to do to simplify your life so that you can be happy.

Last week’s article was written by Hannah, who suggested that kindness is the key. This week I want to share with you the other side of the coin—my side—which says you also need to be intolerant.

Being intolerant is viewed as politically incorrect. We are told that we “should” tolerate people that are different from us. We “should” tolerate our own fears and feelings. And there is value in these ideas, but any idea taken too far becomes absurd, and I think that’s what happened with the idea of tolerance.

So there are two things I would suggest you should NOT tolerate.

The first is your own immaturity. I continually astound myself at the degree of immaturity people seem to tolerate in themselves. And I’m talking about some smart, self-aware people who are on the “spiritual path.” These people act out—at times—in inappropriate ways, which is my definition of immaturity. They justify their immature behaviors by saying that they are overwhelmed, or “off center,” or terribly anxious about this or that. They give themselves permission to be rude or impatient, to treat people disrespectfully, or to be oblivious.

When these people come to me for counseling, I challenge them about their right to be immature and they usually tell me that they are unaware of their poor behavior until after the fact. Baloney. I don’t buy that—except for maybe the rarest circumstances. We all set limits for ourselves. We refrain from using bad language when we’re with certain people. We don’t act out in certain venues. We don’t say horrible and hateful things to our children. We place limits on ourselves. So my question is why not place stricter limits?

Why not be intolerant of our own immaturity? Why do we give ourselves permission to be rude, disrespectful or unkind? There is no good reason except that we simply self-indulge.

As to the second area in which I advocate being intolerant:

Don’t tolerate other people’s immaturity.

And here’s the key: If you don’t tolerate your own immaturity you don’t have to tolerate other people’s immaturity. I think it’s that simple. Once I raise the bar for myself and hold myself accountable to a higher standard of behavior, then I can ask the same of you.

If you are wondering how to reconcile Hannah’s suggestion that you be kind with my suggestion that you be intolerant, just be intolerant in a kind way.

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9 Responses to Be Intolerant

  1. Bruce Taylor April 27, 2013 at 7:18 pm #

    I find this to be powerfully relevant to me and my life. Thank you, Jake, for the constant and unerringly timely contribution you make to my life.

  2. Alice Davis April 27, 2013 at 7:19 pm #

    so holy war against inappropriate behavior can be kind?
    i would appreciate examples.

  3. Jake Eagle April 27, 2013 at 7:25 pm #

    Hi Alice…I don’t know about a “holy war against inappropriate behaviors.” I was thinking more about our daily interactions. When I’m preoccupied and don’t fully acknowledge the presence of my wife, Hannah, she will let me know that she expects more of me. She is being intolerant of my behavior, but I feel that she does so in a kind way. She might put her hand on my hand and say, “Hey, I want you to treat me like I’m here, because I am.”

    Another example: Our grandson who is 12 spends some nights at our house. He likes to have us wait on him. I recently told him that I expect him to think about us, not just have us think about him. I did this in a kind way. And I think he received my message as a sign that he is growing up. He seemed to respond very well.

    So these are simple examples that suggest “how” we deliver our message can be kind, even when the content of our message is one of intolerance.

    Does that help?

  4. Alice Davis April 27, 2013 at 7:30 pm #

    thank you, jake, as a 72 year old, i find myself, and other older friends, often behaving what may be judged inappropriately, at this stage of life. perhaps there comes a childlikeness in later years, when one is free from needing to maintain certain public persona. it startles me to hear you recommend being intolerant of immaturity. i have spent a lifetime focusing on compassionate interactions, as a teacher, psychotherapist, etc. i find comfort in befriending myself, confident in my experiences and intentions and trusting the feedback of beloved friends. frankly i would be uneasy in your presence if i needed to step up a guardedness of my behavior, which might be judged inappropriate and or immature for a mature elder. perhaps your definition means harmful or disrespectful behavior, rather than immature?

  5. Jake Eagle April 27, 2013 at 7:39 pm #

    Yes Alice, maybe this is a matter of semantics. My concern is about behavior that is disrespectful or harmful. I wonder what you mean when you think of “immature” behaviors? If you are thinking about being silly or spontaneous . . . I do not see these as being immature.

    For a better description of what I mean by immaturity you might read the following posts:

    Here’s another:

    I hope you would not be uncomfortable in my presence.:

  6. Cynthia April 27, 2013 at 7:40 pm #

    There are so many ways in which I tolerate my own immaturity – most often breaking agreements I have made with myself – I feel this as a diminishing of myself that comes out from self-indulgence. Ultimately I believe it’s what a person ‘will not do’ that truly defines them. – Not tolerating my immaturity is surely a kindness to my deep lives that thrive on honor.

  7. Jake Eagle April 27, 2013 at 7:41 pm #

    Cynthia, I appreciate your comment and the idea that sometimes what we tolerate is NOT taking action, NOT doing what we know we should do.

    I wonder what would happen if you did the important things that you think you should do—even for just one week?

  8. steve June 16, 2013 at 3:39 pm #

    intolerance actually breeds immaturity….

    • Jake Eagle June 16, 2013 at 4:38 pm #

      Steve, I agree that a certain kind of intolerance, such as intolerance of people’s differences, can breed immaturity. However, that’s not what I’m talking about in the article. I’m talking about being intolerant of our immature behaviors.

      Being intolerant of our own immaturity is a way of expecting ourselves, and other people, to be more mature.

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