One of the goals to which many people currently aspire is being “open-minded.” Not only being open to the thoughts and ideals of others but truly listening to them without any preconceived biases. At first consideration, this would appear to be rather simple to accomplish. But does it take more skill, knowledge, or strength to listen genuinely to someone else’s point of view?
It seems peculiar we ever lost this ability in the first place since as children, our primary way of learning was absorbing information from and intently listening to other people.
On the other hand, it is easily understandable how this ability was lost when we scrutinize our upbringing. The values we currently hold were shaped by our upbringing and many other external factors which could have a propensity to strip us of the capacity to be objective and allow our life’s experiences to distort or prejudice our thinking processes.
The right mind
If there is one obstruction that is the primary reason for our lack of being open-minded, it is the desire to be right. We want to be accurate, factual, and truthful which in and of itself is an admirable objective. However, too often we may hear something which sounds as though it should be correct but in actuality, it is not.
English grammar is filled with many examples where the expression sounds correct but is grammatically incorrect. “If it were me” technically should be “if it were I.” Granted, the first phrase has become completely acceptable, but did the possibility of it being incorrect ever cross your mind?
When it comes to more essential subjects, our minds tend to focus and be attuned to philosophies and principles on which we already agree or are completely contrary with our line of reasoning. We may not even be paying attention to a conversation happening around us when suddenly our ear picks up someone endorsing an issue completely contrary to our beliefs. It may irritate or even anger us to the point of having to move in order to remain calm and not interject our thoughts into their discussion.
These kinds of circumstances happen continually and of course, are frustrating. Yet they still are not the kinds of situations to which I am referring.
Personal growth is a continual effort. Being open-minded helps us in this endeavor. Now, let me pose this question. While you were reading this article, was there ever a time when you thought I wish so-and-so were reading this? Was there something stated which reminded you of someone you know who is close-minded?
This is how our brains work. We automatically look for external factors or other people rather than pointing our finger at the person in the mirror. We will find any excuse to get the speck out of someone’s eye when there is a beam lingering in our own.
No matter how accurate your assessment of the other person is, it is not personal development. Your suppositions about the other person are not catalysts for your own progress. Being critical of someone else has no benefit unless it causes you to deeply and sincerely reflect on your own shortcomings or faults.
Recently, I had someone question my actions. Strangely, it occurred while I fully believed I was doing some good. When my intentions were criticized, I went into a defensive mindset and wondered how my behavior could have been interpreted with such contempt. In my mind, I hadn’t done anything wrong. Even after hearing their explanation, I continued to search for reasons which would vindicate my response.
It was when I decided to consider it from their perspective that I was able to see my mistake. Although there was never any intention of upsetting nor causing offense, my actions triggered this reaction and if there is something I can change then the least I can do is examine it.
Originally and perhaps instinctively, my mind searched for reasons why I was right. I could have easily dismissed their point of view and vehemently defended mine. But that is not personal growth. Had I closely examined every step I took and found no fault in my actions I could have moved forward with a clear conscience. That too would have been personal growth.
Mindful of our minds
It is ironic the desire to be right can impede, excuse, and all but reject any feelings or opinions of those with whom we disagree. This urge can be so prevalent we are likely to believe information that has no merit or fact. But because it aligns with our beliefs, we swallow it up like a delicacy. And it is exceptionally pitiful when we refuse evidence or proof which specifically dispels our beliefs. Social media only feeds this narrative by providing content that ignites you emotionally with no regard to the truthfulness of the content, but only what brings them greater profit.
It is time we become more mindful and not hesitate to question our beliefs. Examining them doesn’t automatically deem them incorrect. On the contrary, it may strengthen and instill them greater within us. Refusing to question them limits us and at the same time generates arrogance and feelings of superiority. It can be extremely difficult and disparaging seeing yourself in this light, but it is the beginning of growth. It is the springboard to becoming open-minded and leading a more thoughtful and compassionate life.
Being open-minded may not occur naturally and will require focus and effort. It takes discipline to grow and maintain this approach, but it is also something that will benefit you and the world around you for all your undaunting endeavors.