Taking Tolerance Too Far -- Enabling?

Let’s say I and a friend decide to go skiing over the weekend, and my friend chooses a particularly treacherous area in which to ski. Not wanting to offend my friend by telling him it’s a dangerous area, I pat him on the back and say, “Go for it! What harm could it do?” Now, I love my friend dearly, so I naturally want him to be happy. And I sincerely believe in my heart that he will be happy skiing that slope, and that’s all that matters, right?

So my friend takes the slope, and sure enough, he ends up falling off the cliff and seriously injuring himself. I go to visit him in the hospital and he asks me, “Dude, why didn’t you warn me that that area was dangerous? I was about to come to my senses and take the main slope, but you told me to ‘go for it’! So I did, and now I’m in severe pain with tons of broken bones! Why did you tell me it was okay?”

I have no answer for him. I enabled him to do something which harmed him in the end, and I am to blame for his predicament, as good as my intentions were.

I’m of course not talking about skiing. I’m talking about telling people with homosexual orientation that it’s “okay” to go commit fornication with a gay friend, that it might do them some good, even (as I myself was advised recently). I’m talking about patting someone on the back and saying, “Go for it!” when there is almost a certain risk of harm to that person if he follows my advice. Now, I do realize that not everyone shares this worldview, and I respect that. But for the purposes of this thread, let’s assume that homosexual behavior is harmful. Should I be advising my good friends, in all sincerity and good intent, that their behavior is acceptable, when in fact it will destroy them?

At what point does toleration become enabling destructive behavior? How much of the blame do I share if I enable someone to do something destructive, even if I meant them no harm?

Ultimately a person must keep his own counsel. It is the task of the individual to assess the possible harms and benefits of a given course of action. The fact that a certain individual would choose to listen to advice that goes against his better judgment is his fault alone.


Although I respect your difficulty with your orientation, and your sincere desire to change, and understand where this question is coming from, it’s very difficult for me to answer the question as presented in the OP.

You see, it is my opinion that people have to do what’s right for them. So, in your initial example, I would most likely not tell the friend to “go for it” - instead, I would ask them if they felt like they could take that mountain. Similarly, if you’re not comfortable with your orientation, I’m not going to push you to go and “get laid,” either.

“Toleration” does not, and cannot in my mind, equal “enabling” behaviour. I can tolerate Polycarp’s Christianity (;), Poly et.al), but that doesn’t mean I’m going to say to him, “No, go on, go to church,” if I sincerely believe that his going to church is going to harm him, nor will I offer to drive him there.

I hope this makes sense.


Truly, I think this is the crux of the issue. It is ultimately not anyone else’s responsibility that he died since he was, presumably, in full possession of his cognative abilities (mountain air notwithstanding).

Sorry, Charlie, but you didn’t see me going down that hill either :wink:

What a misleading OP. I thought for a minute there I might have something constructive to add since I know a little bit of first hand knowledge about being a little too tolerant and enabling behavior as it applies to substance abuse. But you threw me for a loop with the homosexual angle. I’m not sure I understand? Are you struggling with your sexuality? I might have a little insight into something of that nature too, I’m just not sure what you want to know.


Maeglin wrote:

Good answer! Let’s change the OP just a little, however. Let’s say that my friend had never been skiing before and I am a ski instructor and my friend trusts my judgment completely. Of course, if I’m a ski instructor, I would know that the slope was dangerous, but let’s say that for some strange reason I feel that my friend would be okay skiing it. This is perhaps the situation on this board when certain popular Christians make assertions that homosexuality is “okay” and “normal” (I won’t name names), and some young person who is inexperienced with his homosexual feelings trustingly follows that advice.

There is a critical difference between sharing information which your risk-taking friend does not have, and which is objectively verifiable, and sharing your subjective perceptions of risk.

If your friend, knowing the risks of skiing, nonetheless chooses to ski down the double-black diamond, you cannot continue to harangue him about the wisdom of his choice – nor can he inveigh against you for failing to warn him of the consequences.

Of course, if you see the trail is marked blue, and you know it’s a black diamond, then you should speak out.

The analogy to homosexual behavbior is clear. If your friend is genuinely unaware of the risks associated with homosexual behavior - not likely, but certainly possible - you can be forgiven for seeking to warn him. But if enters into the behavior with his eyes open, then you have no obligation to “warn” him further.

  • Rick

Actually, I’m just interested in opinions here, but I didn’t put it in IMHO because of the subject matter, which is clearly GD material. Yes, I have sexual orientation problems, but I’m not wanting to discuss those. I just want to hear different perspectives on whether toleration can enable people to think that destructive sexual behavior is “okay.”

Why don’t you just spit it out and quit talking in riddles? What is it that you want to know? That it isn’t OK for a someone to give a friend advice about their homosexual feelings because they might be sanctioning sin? What exactly is the question? I guess you’re suggesting that finally giving in to your homosexual feelings will potentially lead to a life full of indecision, guilt, and heartbreak. Guess what, being heterosexual is often full of exactly the same kind of trials. Is this what you’re getting at? I’m puzzled and interested.


I’m sorry, but I have trouble seeing how homosexuality is “destructive.” If you told me HOW it is, and WHY it is, maybe I could help.

OK, consulting an “expert” in a field to get a feel for the inherent danger of this field’s activity, there may be some ethical responsibilities there for most people. But if all the indications of danger are clear, then it is still up to the person who’s about to do something dangerous. It is still his (or, of course, her) responsibility.

I just don’t see the way around that.

Are you perhaps saying that experience is a form of knowledge (which I agree with) and that the person who has experience is clearly in better possession of the facts (which they may be) AND that the person with experience’s opinions trump personal apprehension (other people’s—which is where I disagree). Fundamentally, we may trust another’s judgement, but that was still our call, and no one else’s.


The question of whether risky sexual behavior is ‘OK’ leads us to another realm.

‘OK’ by what standard?

Is boxing OK? NASCAR racing? Neither of these are considered immoral activites by society at large, yet both pose substantial risk to the participants. But we generally permit adults, who can understand and choose to accept the risks, participate. Nor do we generally see cries of condemnation if someone opens an inner-city gym to train young fighters.

Viewed in this same vein, then, sexually risky behavior seems far less a credible menace than boxing - where, after all, the object is to hurt your partner.

On the other hand, if you claim that homosexuality is spritually risky in a way that boxing or NASCAR driving is not, then – while I happen to agree with your premise – we’re nonetheless at an impasse. We cannot objectively show the truth of that proposition; we cannot credibly argue that others should refrain from behavior because we are in possession of information which they cannot independently verify.

  • Rick

You do have a talent for asking the tough ones, don’t you, Snark?! (BTW, I like the surname, and find it very well chosen, considering… ;))

Uh, several items need to be taken into consideration here. Where there is an objective standard at hand on which most of the world is agreed, reference to it is certainly called for. In your initial example, that is, it would be inappropriate to say “go for it” if you have reasonable doubts as to whether the person would successfully negotiate the slope in question. But rather than a simple warning, what would show more respect for him as an individual would be to describe the slope and its pitfalls and let him make the judgment as to whether it is too rough for him. This of course presupposes that he is a levelheaded adult who will not feel pressured into trying something to avoid looking “chicken” or to show off; in such case, you would know from your relationship how best to steer him away from a situation in which you feel he would essay something he cannot handle, out of a desire to “prove” something.

Now, in the case in question, while you and I would both agree that there is an objective standard, we would disagree as to what that standard in fact is. And while I would myself not encourage you to indulge in a one-night stand with another guy, if you should fall in love with him and decide that you want to spend the rest of your lives together, I would make a sincere effort to deal with your scruples as regards the sexual attraction you two would obviously at that point be feeling for each other.

At the same time, I would have to respect your own standard which says that, for you, any gay sex act would be sinful. (Please note that I am subverting my own notion of what is moral to honor yours, given that I am in a position where I am advising you. I would, quite obviously, not take the same stance if discussing this issue with matt_mcl – presumably the question would not come up!) As I noted several times when the issue has been raised, I would encourage self-acceptance and self-love as regards your orientation, which is effectively unchangeable (allowing that you may be able to condition yourself long-range, and that you are in fact bisexual, as was evidenced by your stated physical reaction when you were engaged), combined with you doing what you yourself consider moral. Please note that I am not judging the CoJCoLDS standard as regards homosexuality, but I need to say that you must not judge yourself on how you measure up to what they say, but by how you measure up to the standard you set yourself – presumably working from their standard as a loyal if sometimes inactive member, but interpreting it according to your own condition. What is key to me is not what you do but how you react to who you are.

Having said all that, I personally feel that a healthy committed relationship would not be sinful, and would not myself be at fault for encouraging you to find your happiness in one. But I would, in fact, be acting against your moral stance in doing so by encouraging you to follow your desires and in doing so commit what you consider a sin. Paul has some choice remarks in Romans about those who do this – being themselves free, they lead others to fall short of the mark and in doing so themselves sin.

I’m overjoyed to know what Evergreen has done for your peace of mind. And I hope that you come to a resolution of this burden on your soul, for your own sake.

And, hey, dogsbody? I don’t tolerate other people’s beliefs – I accept them as what works for them – while reserving the right to disagree and, in doing so, to encourage them towards my own, with due respect to their own intelligence and dignity, and freedom to choose their own way to go. To me, there’s a non-subtle distinction there. Comment?

Here’s the question: can we take toleration of homosexuality too far, and in the process unintentionally sanction destructive behavior? Or, for that matter, can we tolerate heterosexual destructive behavior in a way that enables our youth to believe it’s okay?

I can tell you quite a bit about living with an alcoholic or a drug user and the destruction that enabling can bring in those kind of relationships. I imagine that the same principles might apply to destrutive sexual behavior. But I’m not sure we’re on the same page as to what constitutes destructive sexual behavior in this instance. My idea of destructive sexual behavior would include things like promiscuity without using safe sex precautions, seeking out or remaining in an abusive relationship, those types of things.

I can imagine that to encourage a person to explore their homosexual nature might be helping them decide on something that will ultimately be more difficult for them. But what are the alternatives to denying something as strong as sexual orientation? One thing I am coming to realize is that people and their sexual feelings are very complicated. Many of them much more so than mine. (I’m kind of really boring in this department.) Sexual feelings are also so very important, they are often about more than just sex. I think as a friend it’s important to be supportive in a constructive way. But you’d be right to have doubts, when I was dealing with alcoholism I often thought I was doing things right when I was completely wrong. I later learned that I was doing a lot of wrong things for the right reasons. Sometimes you have to step back and look at things from a little more distance. It often helps not to care too much. Is this what you were thinking about?


What is meant by destructive behavior? Sex itself? ONe night stands? Promiscuity? Etc etc…please be more specific.

Poly- I absolutely agree with you. (Really, there should be no shock there, IMHO, we’ve agreed on stuff before.) However, I was trying to come up with an allusion that, in my mind, equated with Snark’s example of the skiiers, and that’s the first one that came to me - sorry if I offended, I really didn’t mean to.

The distinction I was trying to make (sticking with my own example) (how do you do the nifty list thing in UBB, anyway) :

Tolerance - accepting your beliefs as right for you, though I don’t agree with them and think they are potentially harmful.

Enabling - assisting you in engaging in behaviours that I believe are harmful to you (or that are, in fact, harmful to you, as in the case of drugs or drinking to excess).

That’s really all I was trying to say. But yes, I absolutely accept that what other people believe is what’s right for them, if not for me, and I’m not much into trying to convert anyone else.

And to take this further would really hijack this thread, which I don’t want to do.

Snark, I think the biggest problem is drawing the line of “destructive behaviour.” Is it simply indulging one’s self in the pleasures of the flesh (hetero or homo), or is it something more - or something less?

Ok, why is this OP so loaded?

Fornication. Could you find a more negative word?

Why don’t we assume that homosexual behavior is not harmful and that sexual identity issues are. Why do you think that when you haven’t sorted out your own issues that you should be giving advice to another, especially when your issues are so large(or so it seems) that you paint a picture of it being destructive?

What about being gay do you see as being so destructive?
How do you think you will be able to stop someone else from being themselves and being intimate with someone of the same sex?

I don’t think having sex right now would help you. I think it would make you more confused and cause further emotional and psychological schism. I would politely recommend seeing an unbiased therapist who can help you work through your issues so that you can be at peace with who you are.

Being gay has never been destructive for me. In fact, it has been liberating to love and be loved, and find someone who compliments me as I compliment them. That it is someone of the same gender is irrelevant. Love is love.

I guess I’m just having difficulty seeing where the “destructive behavior” thing enters into your (revised) question, Snark. You offer one very concrete, easily defined concept (homosexuality), then mix that with a poorly-defined, vague concept (“destructiveness”), then pose an ethical question that depends on their interaction.

I guess what I’m trying to say here is that it would help a lot if I knew what kind of destructiveness you were talking about. Spiritual destruction? Physical risk? Is the destruction inevitable or just a slightly increased risk. How serious is the possible destruction? My answer would be quite different if the “destruction” involved hellfire and damnation as opposed to, say, a slight risk of a stubbed toe.

Sorry, it’s hard to take on ethical dilemmas in the abstract. :wink:

And of course, in the few minutes it took to compose this, there have been a half dozen new posts. Oh well …

Oh you’re talking about young people, like say, my 16 year old daughter. My advice, no my edict, is NO SEX AT ALL! Seriously, how young are we talking about here? Teenagers are usually pretty preoccupied with sex, that can be destructive in itself. Adolescence is also when many of our attitudes about how we deal with relationships are formed. I’m trying to make my daughter realize that her body is a temple. (Christian based idea I know but not a necessarily bad one for even non-Christians.) Things that don’t feel right probably aren’t. Relationships that demean or make you feel used and unloved are not desirable. When you think of your body as an extention of your inner self, something decent to be used for good then it’s easier to make better choices about your personal behavior. Does that make sense? My daughter seems to be understanding, at least I hope she does.