Home > Lessons for the Modern Man, Men and Spirituality > Adjusting Our Tolerance Levels

Adjusting Our Tolerance Levels

In yesterday’s post I wrote about tolerance and my view of what tolerance, what we come to tolerate, means. As a follow-up I want to explore today how to set those tolerance levels for optimum effect and performance.

Why? Because when we tolerate things to an extreme it drains our energy. When we are lax in our standards, when we tolerate something beyond a reasonable level it saps our strength; it depletes our ability to cope and to move through life with ease. And we may overlook important lessons if our allowances are too lenient.

But there is another side to this tolerance coin as I mentioned yesterday. We can also set our levels too high, our expectations too demanding to the point of spending too much energy holding ourselves and others to that high standard. Again, we lose energy, in this case actively.

So, where’s the balance? How do we determine the best level of tolerance in a given situation? This goes to the heart of values. We first assess our values, list them and prioritize them. For our highest values we establish an approach to live by those values. And we set boundaries around these values (we may even do this subconsciously based on our life history, family of origin, socialization, beliefs, etc.). The boundaries become our measures of tolerance, both for ourselves and others.

Here’s an example: I was outraged a few days ago when I learned through a news report that three US Congressional Representatives, led by Michele Bachmann, traveled to Egypt and made a speech about the turmoil there and praising the Egyptian military for its actions to overthrow the elected government. They did not have their facts straight, they did not speak well, stumbling over their words, and their general demeanor seemed typical of the superior, high-handed western approach. I had to bite my tongue not to explode in reaction to this total misrepresentation of facts, American ideals and me as an American. Did I expend too much energy on this? Certainly! Why? Because I set my standards too high for politicians these days. Let’s be real: there is a very good reason that our US Congress has one of the lowest levels of approval in history!

OK, so what do I do about this? I have several choices: 1) stop believing that the representatives in the US Congress actually represent me; 2) stop expecting these representatives, and senators, to have much in the way of standards; 3) relax my standards on what it means to be a) an American b) an elected representative c) a politician d) a participant in a democratic experiment; and 4) lower or even remove the notion that living in a republic is a useful value!

Sorry that sentence got a little complicated but I think you get my drift here. I can lower my expectations of how I think a member of the US Congress should behave, especially internationally, and save a lot of wasted emotional energy worrying and railing about it!

I use this example to illustrate my approach to the process. I chose a value of lower priority in my scheme of life to keep it light. My practices, on the other hand, are high on my priority list. And I spend a lot of energy on these practices. They keep me both grounded and connected to what is real. They offer me a way to assess and reassess these values that are so important as a gauge to adjusting my tolerance levels. Values change with the flow and evolution of life and consciousness. Tolerance levels rise and fall with lessons learned.

Do your practices help you adjust your tolerance levels? Do you have a way to assess your values and apply them consciously to the events in your life? What is your approach?

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