Farnam Street helps you make better decisions, innovate, and avoid stupidity.

With over 400,000 monthly readers and more than 93,000 subscribers to our popular weekly digest, we've become an online intellectual hub.

The Difference Between Love and Tolerance

“The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.”
— Alice Walker


New Jersey Senator Cory Booker‘s new book United: Thoughts on Finding Common Ground and Advancing the Common Good offers a welcome refuge from the day-to-day politics that splash across the headlines. Booker shares his wisdom on the difference between love and tolerance, why cynicism is a refuge for cowards, an important lesson his father taught him, and the reason that, while we’re indebted to the past, we must pay it forward.

Booker offers a distinction between love and tolerance:

Tolerance is becoming accustomed to injustice; love is becoming disturbed and activated by another’s adverse condition. Tolerance crosses the street; love confronts. Tolerance builds fences; love opens doors. Tolerance breeds indifference; love demands engagement. Tolerance couldn’t care less; love always cares more.

We stand on the shoulders of giants, Booker professes:

I’ve said many times of my generation that we drink deeply from wells of freedom and opportunity that we did not dig, that we eat from tables prepared for us by our ancestors, that we sit comfortably in the shade of trees that we did not cultivate. We stand on the shoulders of giants.


We do owe a debt that we can’t pay back but must pay forward.

Adding to the belief in small acts of kindness, Booker observes:

[A]lways remember that the biggest thing you can offer on any given day is a small act of kindness.

On an important lesson his father taught him:

Son, there are two ways to go through life, as a thermometer or a thermostat. Don’t be a thermometer, just reflecting what’s around you, going up or down with your surroundings. Be a thermostat and set the temperature.

And finally, in an interview, he boldly admonishes people hiding behind cynicism.

We all have so much power that we don’t use. And I think it’s because of cynicism, which is a toxic spiritual state. Cynicism is a refuge for cowards.