Now, more than ever, we need a reminder on the benefits of maintaining an open mind. A few weeks ago, I landed on a definition of ‘open-minded’ which I think is actually fitting. As of now, I’m sticking with it:
A truly open-minded person enters every conversation
thinking that their belief or opinion might be changed,
that they may be wrong,
and that they might learn something new.
Sadly, there are so few people who are truly open-minded by this definition. Most people enter into theological, political, ethical, or scientific conversations with
Unchangeable beliefs and opinions,
which are definitely not wrong,
and nothing they learn could convince them otherwise.
In fact, new information presented causes them to double down
on the side they already take.
You may be reading this and thinking that you are, in fact, in the first category and you are indeed ‘open-minded’…Except, of course, if you talk about this category, that one, or these unquestionable beliefs…
In order to be truly open-minded, you need to accept the possibility that you’ve been wrong about everything and that it was actually your upbringing/experience which causes you to think this way.
So, might you be wrong?
Let me put some skin on it with a recent conversation. I began chatting with one of the billions of people on the internet and it was quickly apparent that she and I had VERY different backgrounds and worldviews. She was a liberal by every definition of the word: pro-abortion, sex with whomever you want, whenever you want (as long as there’s mutual consent), intersectional, critical theorist (not to be confused with anti-racist!), etc.
Somehow the idea of open-mindedness came up, and naturally, she thought she was the most open-minded person there was. How could she not be?? She was pro-everything! Everything flies! Everything is allowed!
This seems to be the new definition of open-mindedness: someone who, rather than hearing and weighing all sides, actually is just secular-minded and politically liberal. This is what I call emerging Neo-Liberalism.
Classical Liberalism is actually pretty cool—I’d consider myself a Classical Liberal. The idea was simply to hear all sides of every issue, being open to hearing them all and considering each one. Neo-Liberalism (what we tend to think of as ‘Liberal’ today) is moving away from this mindset more and more. Rather than weighing all ideas, they tend to only weigh ones which they agree with; those that seem the most progressive and least restrictive.
In other words, as long as something doesn’t seem to smell like traditional, Conservative Christian values, then it’s a go. This is the modern Liberal state.
One black professor said that in all his years of teaching in the university, he was never discriminated against once for his skin color, but repeatedly for his conservative values.
Historically, conservative people are the ones painted as the closed-minded sticklers who can’t accept things like school dances or having a beer (which is often accurate). In the past several decades however, a new form of Pharisee has emerged: the closed-minded Liberal. While Catholic nuns at the school social were once the morality police, there is a new type of ethics monitor: the ones who expect everyone else to speak and act exactly how they see fit.
Their goals are the same as those religious brothers and sisters—they see their way of living as the best practice for all of humanity and expect everyone else to see the same way. The difference is the paradigm on which they built those visions. For the fundamentalist conservatives, it looked like the moral and ethical teachings of the Bible, while for the Neo-Liberals, it emerged from a post-Christian state of secularism, freedom, human autonomy, and (let’s be honest) a hedonistic dance atop the grave of God.
Anything that stands in the way of my pleasure is a sin.
The once open-minded liberals who strove to weigh all ideas fairly became locked into a system of humanistic progress, and this one path became the new rulebook for speech and action.
All that is to say this: It doesn’t matter if you lean more Conservative or Liberal; religious or atheist; Democrat or Republican. No one is immune to the temptation to close our minds and become locked into a one-way-only epistemology.
Like my internet friend proved, simply being licentious and saying Everything is okay! If it feels good, do it! does not make you open-minded. She wouldn’t even hear my reasons for not thinking everything is permissible (like abortion). And that, my friends, is the definition of closed-minded.
Open-minded people aren’t just spineless pillows who agree with whomever they’re talking with. I hear plenty of ideas which I disagree with, and my mind isn’t changed. The difference between me now and me a few years ago is, now I actually weigh their arguments. I consider them. Sometimes my mind is changed, sometimes it’s not.
I want to see a world where opposing ideas are not only heard, but considered. A social media where rather than hatred being cultivated, ideas can be synthesized and improved upon. A room where Liberals and Conservatives alike walk in, ready to have their minds changed, rather than desperate to change the minds of their opponents.
Now, the real test of this post is this: Are you reading these words and thinking of all the other people you disagree with? Are you thinking, Oooh, Mary needs to read this. Then maybe she’d see the light!?
Or are you reading it and applying it to yourself? Are you thinking of conversations where YOU failed to hear/consider the other position?
Let’s humble ourselves, learn from others, and hopefully grow in the process.