Saturday, June 10, 2017

Tolerance vs. Acceptance: Bill, Ted, and Being Excellent To Each Other

Hello everyone...just wanted to share a disappointing yet enlightening story that happened in my life recently.

Let me be clear on this at the outset: I try very hard to respect everyone's beliefs, even when I personally would not choose to practice them, and I don't lump every practitioner of a religion or spiritual path into the same category because of the actions of one individual. In short, to me, no one person represents an entire group of people. 

Anyway, this is a story of two friends of mine who I will call "Bill" and "Ted."

I used to hang with Bill a lot. We used to discuss many things openly, including religion, and even though he is a Christian and I am Wiccan, we respected each others' beliefs.

Later, I met Ted through Bill, and though we haven't hung out much, we've gotten to know each other recently. And the more Ted and I have talked, the more I've uncovered the true story of Bill and how he operates. 

Ted and I got together for the first time in a long time a while back, and he was brave enough to tell me Bill warned him about my negative influence. My ungodliness, it seems, warranted a two-paragraph email from Bill, ending with "Jesus is the only way." 

To be honest, Bill had pulled away some time ago, and while I had my suspicions, it's sad when you see someone's true colors. Hearing this revelation was not truly a shock because I had suspected it for a while, but I had hoped it wasn't true. The truth disappointed and saddened me.

Looking back, Bill spent a lot of time bad-mouthing Ted behind his back before I had even met Ted. So when I finally did meet Ted, I had a negative impression of him because I listened. I freely admit that I was wrong. 

Thankfully, both Ted and I found out what was really going on: That Bill was poisoning the well, so to speak.

So here's the $64,000 question: What makes me such a negative influence? 

That's the confusing part for me. I try very hard to be a good person and to help people whenever I can without regard to someone's race, sexual orientation/identity, spiritual path, or other stereotypes. I have a solid network of family and friends who I can trust to tell me if I'm out of line. I'm confident, but I strive to be humble and not let my ego drive the bus. I know that I am far from perfect and admit my mistakes and try to change. 

So to repeat, how come I've been labeled "ungodly"?

Well, I strongly suspect it's my life choices--specifically, my religion and other practices-- that have brought out Bill's bigotry. 

I suspect that I've been deemed a negative influence in Bill's eyes because:
  • I am a practicing Witch/Wiccan and lead a Wiccan community;
  • I am a professional tarot reader;
  • I am a professional astrologer;
  • I embrace concepts, beliefs, and ideas that many consider "alternative" or "outside of the mainstream," like crystal balls, gemstones, chakras, etc.; and/or
  • Ted and I share many of the aforementioned interests.

When it comes to any individual person, if you want to find things not to like, it's shooting fish in a barrel. And I know I'm an especially big target; many people do not approve of me on principle because of the bulleted list above without having ever met me. I've experienced this same situation a number of times with people in my life, and it's never easy. 

You know what? Let's take the idea of religion out of the equation because, in the end, it's not about that. We could substitute one religion with "Yankees fan" and one with "Red Sox fan." [And for the record, yes, Yankees fans, I love and respect you, too, and your tremendous passion for your team. How many Red Sox fans will say that? :) ] 

I realized the simple truth: Bill tolerated meWhen you tolerate something, you're judging it as less than acceptable. He has never truly accepted me for who I was and am. And that is what hurts the most. 

It would be very easy at this point in my narrative to make plenty of disparaging remarks about Bill's spiritual choices or about Bill himself and his behavior. But I don't need to waste my time and energy; Bill is already getting too much attention here as it is.

What Bill hasn't yet realized that as a human being, he's a failure. That's what happens when you label "nonbelievers" as a negative or unwholesome influence through their very existence. By choosing to lump people into some arbitrary category of stereotypes and assumptions, Bill is incapable of true acceptance of another person. For that, he doesn't deserve my vitriol, but my pity.

Ted and I are going to be friends for a long time. I know this because he's a very smart man who also had the courage to tell me a very hard truth about someone that I cared for and respected. While I didn't like the news, I needed to hear it, so he has my sincere gratitude.

The best I can hope for is that someday Bill will accept every person instead of judging and stereotyping them. And even knowing what I know today, I respect his beliefs and accept him for who he is. I can't say I like him anymore, and I doubt we'll ever be friends again, but I do accept him and where he is spiritually right now.

I implore you to accept every single person you meet as an individual with unique gifts and needs, whose choices may or may not match your own, for reasons you may never understand. Ted and I will thank you. Hopefully, one day, Bill will thank you, too.

As Bill and Ted famously said, "Be excellent to each other!"


  1. Sooooo true! Very well written!

    1. Thank you, Liz. This one was not easy to write but necessary! :)