You’re on holidays with your family, so you decide to visit a church. You arrive right on time but no time to be greeted by anyone, you leave right at the end with no real window of time for anyone to greet and welcome you. You leave.

You might even walk away thinking, ‘what an unfriendly church!’.

It’s highly unfair isn’t it?

When we behave like this, we don’t allow the space to be open to being served or serving ourselves. Instead, what’s really happening is we just want to be with others like ourselves, in our comfort zone, with people we KNOW. Meeting new people is challenging, it’s always easier to stick within your fold. Greeting people requires effort and other-person centeredness. So does making the effort to stick around a little to meet people who aren’t running up in any hurry to greet you as the visitor!

But here’s the thing…this is an opportunity to teach yourself and your kids tolerance.

For when we go to strange places…and let’s face it, every church does things differently, we have the opportunity to learn to be tolerant.

One of my kids was recently reading ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ -what a classic. The key idea being ‘you can’t know a person till you walk in their shoes. Tolerance begins with suspending judgement. Slowing down our speech, quenching hostility and taking a deep breath. It requires empathy, to see things from someone else’s perspective.

When we go to someone else’s church, home, party, or country we can sit with our friends and make judgments, even poke fun or criticise as we drive home. But when we do we miss a big opportunity to serve another. We fail to empathise and we fail to learn how to be tolerant.

Tolerance is in short supply in our society regardless of how many times we hear it in the media.

You might think that our western secular societies are becoming more tolerant however the recent threat to ban rugby player Israel Foloau because of his Christian views on homosexuality demonstrate a crisis of intolerance within our western democracy.

Our kids are growing up at a time where our universities are no longer opening young people to wider viewpoints and social media continues to constrict our field of vision.

University life is no longer socially diverse

University used to be a place where you would mix with lots of people and be exposed to a wider range of views. Last week I read an article about the ‘narrowing’ of student minds at university because the kind of ‘mixing’ of people that had always been part of uni life was on the decline. Apparently, Manning Bar at the University of Sydney, once ‘the’ place to be, is now often empty. Reasons offered for the dwindling numbers at the infamous bar included the rising cost of education and living costs in Sydney that required many students to work part time jobs to pay their way. Consequently, students aren’t hanging around anymore. Instead they do their lectures, meet at a café to catch up with friends and go home or to work.

Uni isn’t the same ‘happening’, socially diverse place it used to be. Here’s the clincher…. instead of hanging around and making the most of Uni social life and being exposed to different views. Students are merely reinforcing old relationships with friends from high school that they go to uni with and thereby limiting their ability to be tolerant.

Social media reinforces our prejudices and fuels intolerance.

In order for social media to be monetized it relies on matching us up with similar people and showing us content that is close to content are already interested in. As such, social media continues to reinforce the similar views that we already hold and feed our prejudice. Whatever views we espouse, we are going to find support from our tribe of likeminded ‘friends’.

We and our kids are going to have to work extra hard to learn tolerance because our society is failing so badly at it.

So, let me ask you, what are some examples of how you are teaching your kids to be more tolerant?

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