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We pray this calling every morning in the First Hour of Agpeya, but what does it mean? First, as a spiritual brother put it, there is a difference between bearing and tolerating. At times I may think I’m bearing with someone when in reality, it is more so merely tolerating. So what’s the difference? Tolerating is allowing some behavior or characteristic of a person to exist while not necessarily being at peace. Tolerance is more passive in dealing with the shortcomings of others.
In contrast, bearing with one another is actively carrying whatever it is with that person. Think of how Christ bore the cross; He literally bore the cross as well figuratively, in that He bore the sins of the world upon the cross. My spiritual brother used the analogy of a person having a breakdown in front of me. I can’t help but sense their burden and begin carrying it and empathize with them, as St. Paul says, “rejoicing with those who rejoice and weeping with those who weep.” St. John Chrysostom uses the analogy of a house; each brick is held up by the brick below. He ties this back into the Church as a whole because when I bear the weaknesses of others; in turn, the Church will carry my shortcomings. The critical difference is that bearing is more than an attitude as tolerating is; bearing is the active role of covering the sins of others. In the sense of the natural man or psychology, this may come off as being passive. However, bearing with one another does not mean to condone the wrong others do or pretending they have not done anything wrong. Forbearing is to understand that although this person did something wrong, this does not mean that they are bad in their very being. I can hold space for seeing the behavior as wrong while at the same time, recognizing that we are all hurt and hurt people, hurt people.
This lack of bearing is an issue nowadays; I often want others to be patient with me yet cannot even tolerate another person’s vulnerability. At times, I may think I’ll bear another person only if they bear with me. However, with such logic, I am no different when I love those who only love me, as Christ says. To carry and love others is not contingent on others doing so with me first. If others are to bear with me, then I need to begin with bearing others. However, I do not bear with others merely that others would bear with me. Instead, Christ calls me to bear others because, in doing so, I recognize who that person is in Christ and the value of this person in God’s eyes. The more I can understand the importance of others in God’s eyes and recognize that we are weak, the more I will be able to bear with one another in love.