On Being Open Minded

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Most consider being open-minded a virtue.

I suspect many, though, have difficulty with what it really means.

Being open-minded is being willing to be wrong.

It’s being willing to see things from different perspectives. It’s being willing to incorporate new information. It’s being willing to change your mind.

You can probably see why so many people might have a problem with that. We’re in a pandemic — a pandemic of people unwilling to be wrong.

They’ll call themselves open-minded and willing to change their mind, but when faced with something threatening their pre-existing beliefs, or god-forbid, their identity, they come to a full stop. Their “open mind” is suddenly closed for business.

It’s a pandemic for a couple of reasons: the other pandemic, and polarized politics.

There are so many opinions about COVID-19. Many of those opinions — be the about the importance of masking, the efficacy of vaccines, or the supposed presence of micro-chips — seem to be cast in granite. No amount of new or contradictory information can change minds.

It’s the very definition of being closed-minded.

The same is true of the current political landscape. I don’t care which side of the aisle you’re on, you’re probably convinced that yours is The One True Side. You’re probably highly resistant to information contradicting what you believe, and no collection of differing perspectives is going to change that.

I hate to say it, but … once again, that’s the definition. Your mind is C-L-O-S-E-D.

I point that out not to berate you for your position, whatever it might be, but to underscore just how difficult it is to be truly open-minded.

It’s really, really hard.

Different perspectives challenge not only our beliefs, but our very identity. Different perspectives force us to evaluate our ideas, as well as our relationships, and perhaps even our life, differently. That’s really scary.

Scary enough that it feels safer to resist new ideas, even if the ideas you hold turn out to be objectively wrong.

It takes courage to be truly open-minded.

2 thoughts on “On Being Open Minded”

  1. Let’s say you like to take your kids to ball games and I like to take my kids to the ballet and artsy stuff. You like what you like; I like what I like. But if we change that a bit and say that you like to take your kids to ball games and I like to stay home on Saturdays so I can beat my son and molest my daughter, we no longer have an equivalency. It’s not okay. In our polarized world, one side in trying to destroy democracy. I try to listen to people presenting arguments from the other side and have never heard a thing that sounds reasonable. It’s nice to say listen to the other side and compromise but in this case, there is no compromise and they have made no argument that make any sense.

  2. “Being open-minded is being willing to be wrong.” So right, and so well-written, I can only wish I’d thought of it!

    A truly open-minded person SEEKS to expose him/herself to alternative thoughts, thoughts that challenge currently-held beliefs.

    HOWEVER, after giving opposing views a fair hearing, it’s not then closed-minded to choose not to adopt those opposing views.

    A teacher once told me “Be open-minded. Just not so open-minded that every breeze blows right through.”

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