You must be the change you wish to see in the world.
– Mahatma Ghandi.
How is tolerance related to spirituality and parenting? One of the hallmarks of The New Spirituality is non-judgment. How can you present that to your child, even as your own views are judged by others as "wrong" and even blasphemous?
Many of us have experienced intolerance because of our non-traditional spiritual beliefs, either from family, friends, or acquaintances. Those living in overtly religious areas can find it very difficult to be different from the mainstream. That is one of the reasons that the community aspect of religion has lasted so many years…the human desire to assemble, and be, with others like themselves. This is also one of the reasons that it can be difficult to engage in a non-traditional spiritual life…the lack of community. However, you can assemble your own community if you desire it; it may just look a little different than what you expect. Your community may be internet-based, such as the Global Conversation or the School of the New Spirituality, it may be found at spiritual retreats, or you may create it based on another aspect of your life – parenting, love of outdoors, etc.
You may have felt the need for caution before divulging your world view. You may have felt ostracized as people in your area talk about their own ideas, as if they are everyone's values. You may have struggled with how to teach and celebrate your spiritual beliefs with your child so that he or she understands and embraces a relationship with God; while being careful not to cause him or her to feel uncomfortable, or left out, around other children. The truth is that intolerance is fear made manifest. People fear what they do not know or understand and, so, to keep that which they fear away from them they put up walls of intolerance. Children, on the other hand, like to find commonalities. In trying to make connections they often ask their parents, "Does that person believe the same things as us?" It can be disconcerting and disappointing to the child when the answer is, more often than not, no.
Children are also sponges. They observe, hear and internalize our attitudes as well as our fears and insecurities. Religious tolerance is one topic on which children learn from their parents, both how to react to others' attitudes and how to treat others. You have no control over the amount of religious tolerance which is extended to you. Therefore, it can be beneficial to demonstrate tolerance toward others even if they are not showing the same to you. Helping your children feel secure in their own beliefs is one way to avoid taking other people's attitudes, either positive or negative, personally. Assist your children in exploring their own connection to God and others. Show your child yourself being love and tolerance in the world; instead of being afraid to speak your truth. Show respect to others and allow your child to learn about what others believe.
Teaching your children the core principles of Conversations with God can be very helpful, especially, "There is no such thing as right and wrong," "God talks to everyone all the time," "Love is all there is," and "We are all one." These concepts help children understand that there are many paths to God and that no one way is the only way. All 25 concepts help us to embrace Who We Really Are, how to feel confident in our connection to God and the Universe, and as a result, how to feel secure in our understanding of the world. Through this acceptance of our connection we can cease to view ideas as competing and begin to assess the world differently; abandoning dynamics of inferiority/superiority, for more effective questions such as "Does this thing/idea/choice/belief/action benefit me right now?" and "What can I do, today, to be a gift of love to the world?"
nce we all begin viewing "beliefs" as, merely, part of the paintbrush with which we paint the canvas of our life - rather than as the hard and fast lines (rules) we have to paint within - notions of fear and intolerance will melt away. All that will be left is Love! We will collectively experience love of diversity, an easy acceptance of others and a willingness to learn from one another. Instead of competing to be "right" we will lift up and inspire each other to be our own personal bests. Believe it or not, this can start today, with what you teach your child about tolerance of others!
Originally printed on The Global Conversation Online Newspaper, (2013). All Rights Reserved.