The Boundaries of Discontent

Pierre Van ZylMinimalism


By Joshua Fields Millburn ·

We’re alarmed when people disregard or disrespect us.
But maybe there’s a reason they treat us poorly.

Perhaps we’ve tolerated their behavior so long
that they’ve grown comfortable in their misbehaving.

Here’s the truth about tolerance.

The boundaries of your discontent
are marked by everything you tolerate.

Bickering, scorn, disdain.
Spite, abandonment, outrage.
Cruelty, torment, abuse.

We don’t realize it, but
our tolerance is a magnet for neglect.

When we tolerate ridicule,
we attract more of it.

When we tolerate heartbreak,
it shows up at our doorstep.

Now, that doesn’t mean that tolerance is bad.
Nor is it something you should avoid.

In fact, tolerance is wonderful
when it moves us toward
acceptance, respect, appreciation.

But when we stay in the shallow end,
mired in the murky wave pool of tolerance,
we are battered by timorous emotions—
sadness, anger, melancholy, insecurity—
that carry us into the waters of chronic discontent.

Spend enough time in those currents, and you’ll be nauseated by the toxicity. Before you know it, you’ve been steeped in a low-grade misery for years.

It’s as if we’re punishing ourselves in the name of virtue or discipline or commitment or whatever buzzword piques our self-righteous pleasure sensors.

Thankfully, there’s a flip side to this coin.

When we stop tolerating the nonsense,
we make room for kindness, mercy, grace.

These states arrive when we no longer permit the misconduct,
when we’ve decluttered our attachment to the people who are careless with our love.

As strange as it may seem,
to put up with insolence or mockery
is to lack compassion,
because, in a real way,
we encourage what we tolerate.

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