(Here’s a little different kind of post for today. I like to dabble with philosophical thought and societal issues from time to time. It helps me process. Here goes.)
What does it mean to be open-minded? Or narrow-minded? Or closed minded?
Have you ever took a minute to think about what those terms actually mean?
I came across a person’s profile the other day (I can’t even remember the website) and this person described herself as open-minded, and for the first time I wondered exactly what that meant. I, myself, am a person who has a head full of opinions, but I always consider myself open-minded. I’m willing to listen to what others have to say. I don’t ignore facts. Is that what this person was saying? It’s not the impression I got.
I got the impression that open-mindedness in this person’s mind meant that “I won’t judge you no matter what.” Everything and anything is okay. And so I posed myself this question: Can a person be too open-minded?
If open-mindedness means that whatever-whatever is all right, you could basically dump everything and anything into that person’s head. What’s the beauty of that?
So many people are afraid of stating what they believe because they might be deemed by others as judgmental or it might be “offensive”. I personally can’t live in such a way that my brain is nothing but a fluorescent light on a warm summer night, welcoming all kinds of creepy crawly things. My life needs to be grounded in things that I believe in. Things which I believe are good for both me and my kids. Things I believe that help society, and build a better future for everyone. Not everyone will agree with me about what those things are, but I’m okay with that.
Do I care what other people do and think? Not really. That’s up to them.
Do I think that certain ways of raising kids or looking at the world are more beneficial than other ways of looking at the same things? Absolutely. So does that mean that I should be looked upon as a judgmental and close-minded person. I don’t think so.
This, of course, explains the trap of the “judgmental” stereotype. We’ve seen this many times in the media over the past few years — someone feels offended because someone else thinks differently from them. They feel like they are being judged or their actions criticized. But the reality is, sometimes offense is brought upon oneself and it doesn’t originate with another person.
When disagreement happens, offense is not a necessary outcome.
Let me say that again: Disagreement doesn’t have to create offense.
I accept the fact that I disagree with some people. But I would also be happy to be that person’s friend. Sometimes no offense was meant and no offense should be perceived. Sometimes disagreements should end with shaking hands and going out for coffee.
Now let me be clear. There are, of course, times when real offense is obvious. No one should have to tolerate a spiteful racial epithet or a hurtful gender slur. This is not what I’m talking about.
But our society has become so super-sensitive that any type of belief that goes against the popular thinking of the day or that pierces the ear of the mainstream media is quickly brandished as narrow-minded. (Which, ironically, automatically makes the open-minded people seem less open-minded.)
Hopefully, we can come to respect each other, regardless of beliefs, actions, or religious backgrounds. We spend so much energy in this country being offended, that it could be spent more productively on just living our lives and trying to be graceful, loving people who respect each other’s differences and opinions.
There’s no need to become so open-minded that we don’t believe in anything. There’s no need to be so open-minded that we start to close our mind.
And, by the way, if you disagree with this post, I won’t be offended. We can still be friends.