To be tolerant is to be respectful of the belief systems or practices of others, either as an individual or as a culture. The term tolerance is often applied in religion or in society as an understanding that others may have different belief systems, or look different. In fact, governments like the US, while imperfect, were founded on the concept of tolerance, particularly in the ability to freely practice different religions.
Understanding the culture or practices of others can help a person who feels he or she is not tolerant enough. This does not mean one has to go so far as to practice in the same manner as others. Someone who wishes to become more tolerant of a homosexual lifestyle does not have to become a homosexual. Joining organizations like PFLAG, Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays can help promote tolerance and empathy.
In the program 30 Days a documentary/reality show created by Morgan Spurlock, Spurlock has taken people from diverse backgrounds and immersed them for 30 days in a very different culture. One episode was particularly effective, when a fundamentalist Christian agreed to live with an Islamic family for 30 days.
Most interesting was the fact that the Christian was concerned about praying with the Muslims, since he felt he would be praying to the wrong God. He was unaware that Islam derives from the Judeo-Christian tradition, and that Muslims worship the same God, albeit with some difference in interpretation.
Thus learning about a practice to become more tolerant can make one aware of the similarities, as well as the differences. In the case of the person trying to become more tolerant of homosexuality, it may help to be open to befriending someone who is gay.
Being more tolerant is often frightening work for people with a rigid belief structure. In some cases, people believe it is morally wrong to tolerate behavior they define as sinful. However, even in huge religious structures like Roman Catholicism, where active homosexual behavior is considered sinful, parishioners are asked to separate the “sin from the sinner.”
Thus Catholics and many other religious groups are enjoined to love all people, regardless of their behavior. This can produce more tolerant behavior in open-minded people, but may be hard to obtain in people who abhor a certain behavior.
Discarding one's religious beliefs isn't required to become more tolerant. Often, being more tolerant means accepting that other people need to find their own paths and judge by their own consideration of what is right.
Being more tolerant ultimately comes down to deciding to let other people make their own mistakes, as you define them, and live their own lives. It also implies respect for people of all religions and races. Tolerance is promoted by understanding similarities and differences, and inhibited by refusing to express empathy. Learning, one of our greatest assets, does help people become more tolerant, and can help one on the path to being less judgmental.