I have a big problem with people telling me to be “open minded.” At first, being open minded seems like a good thing. You don’t want to spend your entire life thinking what you know and what you think is the best knowledge out there. It’s self-centered. It’s dangerous. And it’s stupid. You should want to grow. You should want to learn. You should want to become a better, wiser, more knowledgeable you.
But, when someone is telling me to “be more open minded” they’re not telling me that I’m only thinking of one side; that I’m only concerned for myself and what I want to believe; that I might even be afraid to consider that something else could be true. No, what people usually mean is:
“You’re wrong and I’m right and you need to believe what I believe because it’s the only thing to believe and not believing it makes you a stupid bigot.”
Or something like that.
At least… that’s how I feel. Why?
Open mindedness is being aware that your thoughts have flaws and by listening to the thoughts of others, together, you can form much more coherent, well thought out, clean cut thoughts. You could have the best idea, but there’s always a way to make things better. You can do some reading, watch a video interview, talk to others in the field, or even just chat with some buddies. The insight others can give us is more valuable than our single thoughts. And the whole thing about being open minded is the “open” part. You need to be open to new ideas. Open to change. Open to the possibility that you do not have the best thought in the galaxy. Because it is possible.
And people can still disagree and be open minded. Someone can agree that you have some good points, yet choose to continue thinking their thoughts. That’s not a bad thing, and most of the time it doesn’t matter. I can think being a strict boss who keeps his personal life separate from his work life is the best way to manage a group of employees. You could think being a generous boss with an open door policy and being friends with your employees is the best way to manage. And we’re both right. I’m right saying that they are my employees, not my friends. And you’re right saying that they are just human, like me and you, and deserve to get a break every now and then. And I think most people would agree that either of these management styles would work depending on the situation and the group of people.
But then there’s things like religion.
Often, I have heard people telling me to be more open minded when talking about religion. But here’s the thing: No. If you want to talk to me about my God, or more specifically what the Bible means, then I’m open to talk. But if you’re trying to tell me that God doesn’t exist and you have all this evidence, I’m going to disagree with you and there’s nothing you can do about it. That does not make me closed minded… unless it also makes you closed minded.
Because here’s the real thing: you cannot tell me that I have to be more open minded about your god, or your interpretation of the Bible, or the idea there is no god at all unless YOU are willing to be more open minded about the possibility my God is real. Open mindedness is a two way street. If I have to hear you out and listen to your arguments, then you will have to hear all my rebuttals. And that’s not me being argumentative, or a sore loser, or close minded. It’s me having a conversation. You say something, I rebut, I say something, you rebut, I comment on what you said, you clarify, you comment on what I said, I clarify… that’s a conversation. Throw in an audience and some judges and we’re having a debate.
But you can’t just expect people to take your word for it. You can’t expect people to just believe you. You can’t expect people to be so stupid as to NOT have done their research already. You can very well have a different perspective, a new idea, a tweak on an old idea, or a very specific thought you think is the best. But to just assume everyone else should believe you, with facts to back you up or not, is asinine.
And I’ll leave with this: Two people were having an argument at work about the border wall. The guy was being pretty hard headed himself, but the girl didn’t seem to be thinking. She said multiple times that “there’s better things to do than just build a wall.” So eventually I said, “like what?” At first, she wasn’t sure what I was saying, because she was so into the argument that she wasn’t paying attention to what she was saying. After I repeated myself she answered with, “I don’t know… more border patrol or something.” That was an argument which was going nowhere until I interjected a simple question. It promptly redirected to nowhere because the guy reveled in the fact that the girl had no better alternatives to a wall than “more security.” Which is a shame, because that seems to be how most people talk about things these days. They’re more interested in protecting their side than figuring out if the sides can work together. Everyone wants everyone else to be more open minded; a prescription meant for the crazies, but not for us normal people.
P.S. – the best way to have a conversation with me is to ask me questions. If you instantly think you know what I think or believe already, then the conversation is over.