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Let’s have the courage to practice tolerance and let go of hostility that often divides us


By Chris Cole
Special to KyForward

It’s interesting to me that there isn’t a specific chapter of the Boy Scouts Handbook dedicated to courage. Bravery is a theme that runs throughout the book, mind you, and is even one of a dozen Scout Laws.

“A Scout is brave,” the law reads. “He has the courage to face danger in spite of fear, and to stand up for the right against the coaxings of friends or the jeers or threats of enemies, and defeat does not down him.”

A Scout is brave. He has the courage to face danger in spite of fear, and to stand up for the right against the coaxings of friends or the jeers or threats of enemies, and defeat does not down him. (Image provided)

But it seems to me there ought to be a chapter dedicated to this subject, if not an entire Scout book. In particular – the part about standing up for the right against the coaxings of friends.

In my experience, it’s much easier to stand up to jeers and threats from enemies than it is to face down friends who you feel are on the wrong side of an important issue. An enemy is going to jeer or threaten you. That’s what enemies do.

But therein lies an important question – what is an enemy? Webster’s Dictionary defines enemy as “one that is antagonistic to another, especially one seeking to injure, overthrow, or confound an opponent.” So an enemy is one who antagonizes you; in other words, someone who causes you to become hostile.

Now we’re getting somewhere.

When we look at the political climate these days in America, there is undeniably a lot of hostility. It’s even difficult sometimes to draw the line between friend and enemy.

Popular thinking too often goes something like this: If you agree with me on Topic A, we are friends, but if we disagree on Topic B, I’m not so sure we are friends because I believe your opinion on Topic B tells me that you are [insert conclusion here].

And just like that, a friendship is in peril.

I’m as guilty of this as the next person, and that’s not good because there is no one in this world who agrees with me on everything. Someone once told me that if I’m looking for a presidential candidate who I agree with on every issue, I had better be willing to run for president, because such a candidate will never exist.

So then how do any of us have any friends at all these days?

The Man Scout (center) with Scott (left) and Seth (right) Avett of the Avett Brothers. In “Head Full of Doubt, Road Full of Promise,” they sing: Where nothing is owed, deserved or expected and your life doesn’t change by the man that’s elected. If you’re loved by someone, you’re never rejected. Decide what to be and go be it.”

The answer seems pretty simple to me: tolerance. We have to raise the bar on what we allow to antagonize us and reserve our hostility for the truly repugnant.

We all have to decide for ourselves what Topic A is – that is, what are the threshold issues that we are unwilling to tolerate? What is worthy of our hostility?

For everything else, we just have to stand up for the right against the coaxings of friends. We don’t have to fight or tear each other down or unfriend one another. We only have to show some tolerance and be willing to listen to one another.

You probably won’t change my mind, but your opinion on most issues isn’t important enough to drive me to hostility. And I’d be willing to wager that my opinion isn’t so important to you, either.

And that brings us back to courage.

As we begin a new era in America, I challenge each of us to try to find the courage to listen to one another, show tolerance and let go of the hostility that divides us.

I’ve tried not to quote my favorite band, The Avett Brothers, too much in this column, but one of their lyrics says it better than I ever could: “Where nothing is owed, deserved or expected and your life doesn’t change by the man that’s elected. If you’re loved by someone, you’re never rejected. Decide what to be and go be it.”

What if we all just decided to be more tolerant? We won’t agree on everything, and that’s OK – the world would be pretty boring if we did. But we can still be friends. In fact, some of my very best friends disagree with me on the most important issues.

Their friendship is simply more important to me than my own hostility. So until next week, let’s listen to one another and, of course, Do a Good Turn Daily!

Chris Cole is Director of Enterprise Communications at Sanitation District No. 1 in Northern Kentucky and a deacon at Plum Creek Christian Church in Butler. He lives in Highland Heights with his wife, Megan. His weekly Man Scout column in the Northern Kentucky Tribune chronicles Cole’s journey to acquiring some of the skills of the head, the heart and the hand he failed to learn as a child of the 1980s growing up in Newport. His field guide: a 1952 Boy Scouts Handbook he found on eBay.


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