Once upon a time, I was in a not-so-perfect relationship. And by “not-so-perfect” I mean it was pretty destructive and hurtful. While this was going on, one of my best friends saw me falling apart through it all, she had numerous conversations with me, expressing her disapproval about the relationship and boldly challenging me to rise above it.

I hated these conversations. They weren’t comfortable. They hurt.

However, every time we had one of those conversations, my confidence that my best friend loved me became more sure. Because, even though I hated being called out and being told that I had to get out of a relationship that, for a lot of reasons I thought was a good thing, my best friend would bring it up anyways. She knew that standing by and watching me go along with things as they were, would lead me nowhere good. By not saying something, she would be approving of the eventual harm that I was going to face.

Although I knew that these conversations came out of love and a true desire for my good, they still frustrated me. Why couldn’t she just let me have this relationship? Why couldn’t she just let me live my life? I wasn’t doing anything unkind to her by being in this relationship, so why couldn’t she just tolerate it?

This is a question I see coming up all over the place in our culture today. In one-on-one relationships, in groups, and especially in the political sphere. Our society is constantly asking the question, “why can’t we just all tolerate one another?”

The Comfort of Tolerance

Tolerate (tol-er-ate, verb): “to allow the existence, occurrence, or practice of something that one does not necessarily like or agree with, without interference.”

Tolerance is comfortable. It’s conflict-free. It’s safe. These are all really attractive things. If I can tolerate my neighbor, my friend, my family, I don’t need to deal with the whole process of calling them to an intentional, meaningful life. And if they tolerate me, I don’t need to deal with them calling me to live an intentional, meaningful life — I can just do me.

It’s never easy to call out a friend when he or she needs to be reminded of what he or she is capable of in this life. And it’s never fun to be called out by a friend — it’s way easier to settle into complacency and just coast through life.

It would have been infinitely easier for me to ignore my best friend’s advice and just apathetically let that bad relationship run its course. And I’m confident it would have been easier for my friend to avoid those tough conversations. But just because it would have been easier doesn’t mean it would have been good.

The Discomfort of Love

Love, unlike tolerance, is uncomfortable. It can’t be content with just anything. It intends to wreck a life that has become content with self-destruction. Love means honestly seeing another, desiring their good, and actively seeking that good with them.

When we tolerate a friend’s choice to bully or gossip about someone, we fail to love them. When we tolerate a friend’s choice to seek a remedy to loneliness in unhealthy relationships, we fail to love them. When we tolerate a friend’s choice to numb the pain of broken relationships with drugs and alcohol, we fail to love them.

Tolerance is comfortable because it says “I want you to be happy, so do whatever you want to achieve that. I won’t interfere as long as you’re doing what you want to do.” Love can be uncomfortable because it says “I want what’s good for you… even if that good requires a change or a hard sacrifice.”

When we approach our friends and our communities, in an effort to truly love, we have to face that discomfort with courage. We have to trust that the good we want for the people that we love is worth the temporary discomfort that we might have to face. If we truly love the people in our lives, we’ll have to have those tough conversations; we’ll have to care enough to say to them, “what you’re doing isn’t good for you and I want to journey with you into something better.”

Love Didn’t Let me Settle

My best friend couldn’t tolerate watching me maintain a relationship that was ultimately hurting me because she loves me and when you love someone, you refuse to watch them do things that will lead to their harm.

It was never fun being told that I was making bad choices, but it was good; and I was able to (slowly but surely) move away from the hurtful relationship I had let myself settle for. It wasn’t comfortable, but it was good and I’m incredibly grateful to have people in my life who love me so fiercely: people who don’t tolerate me when I’m doing things that will hurt me — people who love me enough to call me out of the hurt and into a fuller life.

About the Author

Leah Murphy

I'm a simple lady and one of my favorite things to do is to laugh really hard. I'm constantly looking for what is true, good, and beautiful in everything around me, especially music. I have an insatiable desire for authenticity in all areas of my life. I'm pursuing heaven on a messy little journey that Jesus is making beautiful, with new mercies every day.