Tolerance and resilience – two sides of the same coin? Lillian Lake

I’m a savant when finding things to do when I don’t want to write about something uncomfortable. Such was the case again this week. I thought of a “kabillion” (my friends tell me that’s not an actual number; math is hard) ideas to write about. Still, I kept returning to a discussion I led recently on tolerance and resilience.

So here I am, following the direction my heart takes me and once again writing about something that is both uncomfortable to talk and write about. Fortunately, I stop writing the day I give up on humanity. That day is not today.

Being resilient and tolerant is highly prized, especially as a leadership quality. I’ve pondered the downside to this and its consequences occasionally. Still, it wasn’t until my daughter, severely bullied in school, shared that her elementary school teacher persistently commended her for being tolerant and resilient to the bullying she endured that I mainly focused on the consequences.

Unfortunately, similar examples are repeated in our society when asking us to tolerate situations we disagree with, pressuring us into silence. Or when we become so over-addicted to the commendations for resiliency, we forget about self-care and retreat into silence. My thoughts have led me to consider and now ask, is one outcome of too much tolerance and resiliency the precursor of suicidal ideation?

Are we too often overly persistent in not letting things bother us that we are driven to the point that our hearts break, and we can no longer be tolerant or resilient, a situation that may develop over the years or sooner, as we frequently see with young children?

There is no doubt that tolerance and resilience are useful, especially temporarily, when faced with trauma. Still, when they force impossible goals and outcomes, or worse – harmful goals and outcomes – both become a slippery slope and an unattainable myth.


It is then that we begin to entertain the idea that we have failed because if “everyone else” can be endlessly tolerant and resilient, there must surely be something wrong with us as an individual. Unfortunately, we didn’t pass the test or get the prize.

Resilience can grow from the need to stand firm in unharmful values or approval or even make us feel assured another person is okay. There are times when tolerance is helpful, even when added to intolerance. Still, in the case of situations like bullying, both are apt to make us more on the receiving end of injustice and abuse.

As we receive more approval for resiliency, we begin to miss queues signaling that all is not well, and the need for approval becomes our undoing. There is a correlation between being resilient and the choices we make.

Are tolerance and resilience two sides of the same coin? Both can give us opportunities to recharge and reenergize and who wouldn’t be attracted to that? Yet, both can also push us to silence and inaction, which can become problematic, especially when leading to suicidal ideation or other harmful consequences.

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