I am writing this post especially in an Indian context, from the perspective of living life in an Indian society. But perhaps this might well apply to other societies too.
As a society, India is a rich culture and has a rich heritage that is built on some beautiful values. The ancient Indians led spiritual lives and held tremendous wisdom about the process of life. They led lives that were full of Peace,Balance and Stillness.
However, over the years, as tradition got passed down the generations, the wisdom was lost. What was prescribed earlier as an inner journey to achieve satisfaction, contentment and peace in life, was diluted to just behavioural ‘dictates’ and ‘rules’ of how one ought to live their life. Society only carried forward a carcass of the ancient way of life. People who could tolerate unpleasantness were lauded as peaceful ones. People who could adjust and make-do in most circumstances were celebrated as ones with Inner-Stillness. People who compromised and sacrificed their needs were looked at as people with Balance.
Today, when I listen to people talk about the values and principles that they uphold in life, I still see signs of these idealistic ways. And often there is an unconscious fear of being ridiculed or judged if one does not comply with these norms. Many women especially, are taught that their duty lay in adjusting to the needs of her partner, tolerating things that are not so okay and compromising on her own needs in order to look after the husband and the family. Unfortunately, the reason why tolerating, adjusting and compromising do not work in most cases is because many people experience a diminishing of the Self when they start following these principles blindly. Seldom do I find people with an innate tendency to tolerate, adjust and compromise, living truly happy and content lives.
When Jack tolerates unpleasantness at his workplace, he is taking in the unpleasantness and actively suppressing his displeasure. Well, that is technically the meaning of the word ‘tolerate’ isn’t it?
Similarly when Jane blindly compromises and adjusts with the needs of her newly-wed husband and his family, she is giving up a part of herself, in order to fit in to the new family, without realising that it would cost her something.
As a result, in the big picture, there is never a sense of peace or satisfaction in what Jack or Jane do. Interestingly, both Jack and Jane are likely to sense something nagging them deep inside – as if pushing them to find a more real identity.
[Read this very interesting study called “The Boiling Frog Syndrome” to see what happens when we spend a lot of time and energy in tolerating and adjusting]
When you give to others to the degree you sacrifice yourself, you make others a thief. They are stealing from you what you need, and they don’t even know it.”
~ Iyanla Vanzant
So is it absolutely unhealthy to Tolerate? Hasn’t Tolerance been taught as a virtue? Haven’t we heard innumerable stories of people who have selflessly made way for others? Isn’t that also a Compromise?
Tolerating, Compromising and Adjusting are essentially acts of ‘giving’. Think about it. You give away something each time you take in somebody’s (unhealthy) behaviour via tolerating/adjusting/compromising. And as human beings we cannot ‘give’ unless we have ‘received’ enough. Check within yourself, do you feel like you have received enough emotional care and nurturing in the relationship? It is a feeling. You probably couldn’t rationalise this question.
A person who has received enough emotional care and nurturing, will feel full in his/her heart. A full heart is a heart of compassion. And when one comes from a space of compassion, one can effortlessly look through the unhealthy behaviour of the other to see the wounds within. It wouldn’t even feel like one is tolerating anything or adjusting with something. To such people these words (tolerate/adjust/compromise) do not even apply. They just act in compassion.
But if you have not received enough emotional care and support in the relationship, acting in compassion (giving) is difficult. And if in such a space you decide to be tolerating, adjusting and live a life of compromise, it can be detrimental to both you and your relationship.