"Being an orchestral musician means you have to express yourself to the utmost while simultaneously listening and responding. That's an important skill for conflict resolution - and for life". So speaks Daniel Barenboim.

Daniel Barenboim is a citizen of two feuding lands who uses music to foster peace in the Middle East. He conducts a youth orchestra that brings together Arab and Israeli musicians. He knows something about conflict. In my book, he also knows something about tolerance.

Too often, tolerant people are represented as rather bland individuals with little to say for themselves, which is why (it is assumed) they are so good at listening to others. It is as if the only way to be truly tolerant was to be wishy-washy, the only way to truly listen was to not speak, the only way to truly respect others' views was not to have any ourselves. It seems tolerance is often confused with indifference.

I feel we are truly tolerant when we hold strong views and yet are willing to make space for different strong views. Tolerance is not about agreeing, it is about respecting. Tolerance and passion are not generally considered to be great bed fellows  - for me however, they are indispensable to one another. Tolerance without passion runs the risk of ending up diluted into nothingness, and passion without tolerance can end up evaporated into hot steam. 

It is easier to tolerate other people's religion when we are faithless ourselves. Similarly, it is easier to be tolerant of other people's political inclinations when we do not incline one way or the other.

True tolerance is having a deep passionate faith whilst avoiding the 'My God is better than Your God' syndrome. A tolerant believer rejoices and marvels at the way another person has been touched by God albeit in a different way. I know this is heresy in some quarters but I'll run the risk of being burnt at the stake, metaphorically anyway!

When Daniel Barenboim speaks of expressing ourselves to the utmost whilst listening and responding to others, he describes tolerance at its most powerful.

From a coaching point of view, it is fitting that this description of tolerance should come from a musician. As coaches, it could be said that we help our clients:

  • Tune into their Core Values
  • Hear words/intonations/thoughts that are off-tune
  • Tune-up their Beliefs, Goals and Desires
  • Achieve a more harmonious life
  • Get into a sustainable working rhythm
  • Find their own unique voice.

We encourage our clients to express themselves to the utmost AND we also encourage them to listen and respond to themselves and others in a way that is music to their ears, in a way that creates harmony (internally and externally).

Last but not least, we encourage our clients to become self-tolerant. That's a big one. Learning to accept the odd bum note as part of our on-going development and as useful feedback on how we are playing our life is challenging for most of us.

Personally, I feel like I am playing some new hugely cumbersome instrument that I am just beginning to get some pleasing sounds out of. I would not call it music yet but I have become remarkably tolerant of my 'creaking screeching quacks'.

After being totally off-key for so long, producing anything that starts to resemble a note feels like a blessing :0)

Tolerance and breadth of understanding

I too am a fan of Daniel Barenboim and his efforts to engage musicians from both sides of the Middle Eastern divide - it has much to teach us, especially that we need to respect those from a variety of traditions, some that we may not be familiar with.   Some in the Church of England at the moment appear to have lost sight of what unites us all, namely the free spirit that teaches us all what life is all about - it can also teach us where the other is coming from and thus, as Kahlil Gibran says about marriage, "let it be rather a moving sea between the shores of your souls".   It seems to me that the more we can release ourselves from the grip of our own will (your self-tolerance) and embrace the will of the spirit that moves so effortlessly amongst us, the more we will be able to understand and grow in harmony with one another.   So, become who you are, Gabrielle (that's the big secret) and continue reaching out to us all - you are a star in the making.  [PS. I just love your illustrations]

Thank you Mike

The breadth and depth of your comment, as well as your encouragement to me personally, have left me speechless. Sometimes, words just aren't enough .... Thank you my friend. Gabrielle xxx

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