October 19, 2020

What We Need Now Is Tolerance and Forgiveness

Covering up the faults of others and forgiving them is good not only for them, but for ourselves after all.


In the old time Korea, scholars, who were called Seonbi, were rarely angered and generously extended forgiveness and tolerance to others, regarding them as virtues. Shouting loud in the streets or fighting in anger were considered a vulgar behavior which only the lower class did. Now, however, the world has changed and people with a loud voice are being treated as masters.

We live together with others in the world. Since we interact with different people daily, hurting each other is a common occurrence. The funny thing is that we easily forget our wrongdoing to others, but hardly forget what others have done to us. Sometimes we even think of revenging someday.

However, our anger eventually leads us to self-destruction. When a single letter is added to the word anger, it becomes danger. Anger is dangerous enough to destroy everything just as a single match burns down the whole mountain.

As time goes by, people become more intolerant and even inflict irremediable wounds on their own family members and destroy their entire lives. This world is getting more and more dangerous as people lose their temper easily. At this point of time, what we need in our family is tolerance and forgiveness, generosity and magnanimity.

“It could happen!” VS “How could it happen?”

Many people become angry over small things rather than over big things. They get more enraged at someone who steps on their foot by mistake on the bus than at a criminal who has killed many people. They find it more difficult to forgive someone who has broken their stuff than to forgive a government official who has robbed many people of their hard-earned money paid to taxes. In most cases, although we open our eyes fiercely and blush with anger over something, it is not really a big deal if we take a step back from it. When we become angry at others, we need to think about the cause of our anger—whether it is because they have done something offensive to us or because we are lacking in patience and tolerance; we should examine ourselves to see if we cannot understand or accept what others say or do because of our own standards of thinking.

If you don’t want to waste your energy on trivial things, you just need to be broad-minded. It may not be as easy as you say, but demonstrate your broad-mindedness to others when you find it hard to understand them, thinking, ‘It could happen!’ If you think, ‘How could it happen?’ it will only provoke you to anger and won’t help solve the problem at all.

However, it doesn’t mean that you have to understand and accept everything no matter what. Suppose your child acts rudely or causes inconvenience to others by running around in the public places. In this case, it is not right to blindly stand by your child’s side and say, “That’s okay.” However, if your tolerance can benefit others and make things overlooked, then smile away the other’s fault with a generous mind.

For example, when your spouse irritates you, you will collide with each other if you think, ‘How can he/she do that to me? Do I look that easy?’ However, there will be no problem if you understand him/her by thinking, ‘Something must’ve happened to him/her during the day. It could happen. I need to be a bit more patient and treat him/her warmly.’ The moment you stop thinking, ‘How could it happen?’ and start thinking, ‘It could happen,’ your anger will subside and generosity will bloom inside your heart.

Tolerance and magnanimity come from love

There was a boy who dreamed of becoming a cartoonist. Whenever he earned pocket money, he ran to the comic book store. One day, he found a new comic book at the store. He liked it so much, and he tore out one page from the book and took it home in secret. After that, for being guilty about what he had done, he couldn’t go to the store anymore, so he just kept drawing the same things over and over again from the page he had torn out. Time passed by, and he started visiting the comic book store again. The owner still seemed to know nothing about what he had done. As he was welcomed by the owner, he felt relieved and became bolder. So, he started to rip out many pages from comic books. However, as the saying goes, “The pitcher goes so often to the well that it is broken at last,” he was finally caught by the owner. He was so scared that he didn’t know what to do. Surprisingly, the owner didn’t get angry at him. Instead, he stroked his head and said, “You’re a would-be cartoonist, right?” The owner’s tolerance helped him become a master in Korean comics. His name is Lee Hyun-se.

It is not easy to forgive someone who has caused you damage or has broken your trust. Someone said, “You can forgive as much as you love.” Ironically, there are some people whom you cannot forgive easily though you love them. They are your family members. You are often intolerant of your family members while being generous to others, and sometimes you are intolerant of even minor mistakes they make and point them out until you are satisfied. It tends to happen more frequently when you treat your children. However, you should avoid overreacting to their mistakes or faults. Instead of scolding them over and over again for doing something wrong or being indifferent to it, you need to teach them with love so that they can find a solution to the problem.

To whom can you extend your sincere tolerance if not to your family members? Reflect on yourself to see whether or not you have been more sensitive when treating your family members than other people, and be generous to them as much as you love them. If you are determined to treat them generously, do it unconditionally without expecting anything in return. Don’t waste time arguing over right and wrong, but tolerate them right now before you leave scars in their hearts.

The reason we have to forgive each other

William Shakespeare said, “Be generous to the faults of others. Know that the faults they made today were yours yesterday.” Nobody is perfect; everyone makes mistakes, faults, or errors. As we are all incomplete and our lives are full of variables, we ought to forgive and be forgiven endlessly.

Let’s think about those who have forgiven us and covered up our faults small and great. They are all the people around us, including our family members, friends, teachers, and colleagues. Especially, those who have forgiven us the most are our parents. We have done numerous wrongdoings against our parents since our childhood and even after we are grown up. Nevertheless, they forgive us of our countless faults. They have given us everything, but rather they feel sorry for being unable to give us more. We have received such a great love from our parents, so there is no fault we cannot forgive.

The Bible likens each of us to the one who owed ten thousand talents—one hundred and fifty thousand years’ worth of a common laborer’s wage. In other words, it is impossible for us to repay the debt no matter how hard we try. God has forgiven our tremendous debt of sin. So, we too must forgive others. When Peter asked Jesus, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” He answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”

Forgiving is to give back what we have received. We have no right to say if someone else is right or wrong and to expose his or her faults. The best thing we can do is to embrace and forgive each other.

Sometimes, you may hate your family members. You may feel so resentful and angry at them that you even think of turning your back on them if they were not your family. Actually, there are some who turn their backs on their family members and live as strangers. However, if you want to be free from hatred, anger, and resentment, and if there is a possibility to restore your relationship with your family members by reaching out your hands to them first, extend your generosity to them.

It is said, “Hating and resenting someone is like getting bitten by a venomous snake.” The first thing to do when you are bitten by a poisonous snake is to remove the poison before it spreads all over the body—not to run after the snake to take revenge on it. Extending tolerance and forgiveness is like removing poison from our hearts—that is the best choice for ourselves.