Open Mindedness Essay

We are an amalgam of qualities. We refine them, change them, and moderate them, and we do it all on a daily basis. We bring certain ones to the forefront if the situation calls for it, and other times we hold back. Humanity is fluid in this way.

Sometimes, however, we get lost in ourselves. Our own personal worlds become so small and important that we forget what else is out there. We forget that there are 7 billion other people on this planet with 7 billion other combinations of personalities and experiences and upbringings. We become the center of our own personal universe and we define our own definitive truths. We form opinions and become steadfast in them. Who can blame us? We only know of one life, one perspective.

But what’s just as important as managing our own qualities and personality traits is the ability to understand someone else’s. What’s just as important as focusing on bettering ourselves is focusing on bettering our ability to connect with others. And that’s where open-mindedness comes in.

Open-mindedness is the single most important characteristic we have as human beings. To be open-minded means to remove your personal biases and prejudices from any situation and completely immerse yourself in another experience. But open-mindedness is a muscle. Since we have been indoctrinated since birth with everything we currently know, it involves practice. You must actively place yourself in another person’s head, allowing yourself to think their thoughts and see things from their point of view. And it may not come with age. Open-mindedness takes time, energy, and patience.

Open-mindedness is important. One day, you might (no – you likely will) enter a world that forces you to question many things you’ve come to know throughout your life. When I became a college freshman two and a half years ago, I experienced this very phenomenon. For the first time, not everyone around me shared my religious beliefs, my values, my political views, my definitions of capital-R Right and capital-W Wrong. It should have been natural to assume that I would be around people who were different from me, since obviously not every single person shared my upbringing in suburban New Jersey. But for some reason, this thought didn’t cross my mind. It shocked me that the people I met did things I disagreed with and believed in things that I didn’t understand. I became angry and pejorative, and it felt awful.

Despite it all, though, I loved these people. It confused me. In high school, I was always quick to separate people into “good” and “bad” categories, into these rigid and defiant classifications that determined if I was going to like them (“good”) or not (“bad”). I was so set in my beliefs. Then, once college rolled around, the people whom I considered “good” also possessed qualities of the “bad,” and I hated myself for continuing to judge the people I loved. I felt uncomfortable all the time, ripped from my little suburban bubble, always working to silence the disapproving words that kept enveloping my thoughts. Living in my own head became exhausting. Why couldn’t I be as carefree and accepting as everyone around me? Why did I care so much about what these people are doing, listening to, engaging in? Who was I to judge someone on how they live their life? Who was I to assume that everybody had been brought up under similar influences and values as I had? Who was I to create a rigid definition of Normal, and then classify people who obscured from my own personal definition as Abnormal? Who was I?

I’m tempted to say that “I’m nobody to do this,” but the reality of the situation is that I – like every one of these people that I have met and will meet in the future – am also a person with her own beliefs and values and truths. I am somebody with my own Normal. However, the difference between High School Me and College Me is that College Me has learned how to understand where people are coming from. College Me realizes that people have grown up under a wide variety of circumstances that have influenced their choices in entertainment, movies, music, beliefs, values, and more. College Me was tired of feeling horrible for thinking such negative thoughts about her loved ones, so she worked hard to sharpen her ability to truly understand other peoples’ perspectives. At this point, College Me has been exercising her open-mindedness muscle for the past two and a half years, and is confident that you can now probably talk to her about anything in the world and she will listen attentively and openly.

Being open-minded is relaxing. Your brain doesn’t race with judgmental thoughts that make you feel guilty ten times over, and you are not aggressively working to hide a gut reaction that has been programmed into you for so long. But you must remember that an unexercised open-mindedness muscle is not your fault. It is not naivety. It is not ignorance. We are a product of our environment and of the interactions we have with people around us, so growing up in the same kind of place for our entire lives would certainly put us around the same kind of people who would influence us similarly every day. This is why it takes practice.

Open-mindedness does not mean that you must change who you are. Open-mindedness is a level of understanding that goes beyond a simple “Oh, I see.” It involves the steadiness in your tone and the patience in your demeanor. It requires asking questions, being genuinely interested in peoples’ thoughts, and accepting people for exactly who they are, differences and all. Open-mindedness doesn’t even mean that you agree with something. It means you are willing to adjust your own conclusions and take someone else’s into consideration when creating a final verdict. And, sometimes, open-mindedness means that no final verdict can ever exist. The beauty of open-mindedness is that it allows you to find out so many new things and soak in so many new perspectives. It allows you to try on many definitions of Normal until you settle into one that feels right for you – and nobody else.

image – kevin dooley

An Open Mind is a Prerequisite for Learning

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An Open Mind is a Prerequisite for Learning


The difference between comfort and open-mindedness is the difference between cowardliness and truthfulness. The mind that is open is open to the truth, whereas the close mind invents whatever truth it is comfortable with, so that it may persist in its delusions. To be truly open-minded, we must renounce the religion of our parents, and deny our cherished beliefs. Comfort is seduction. Better it is to suffer the pains of uncertainty, and the insanity of lost identity, so that we might open our minds to a firmer foundation, a deeper truth. Close-mindedness is afraid of reality. We need reality. Therefore, close-mindedness is a form of death worship. It denies our needs. Open-mindedness allows us to embrace the alien and discover what others will not discover. The distinction is between fear and love; life and death.

Close mindedness is not a label for people who are not knowledgeable. That is what we call ignorance. Close-mindedness is willful ignorance, the unwillingness to see what is before them, and the unwillingness to see it for what it is. Close-mindedness is a form of dishonesty and fear. So yes, the position of the open minded is so right, for they are also open to criticism, and so they will have the greatest chance of being right. Any evidence they can get, they do get. Wisdom rejoices in rebuke. So to do the open minded consider insults, criticisms, and rejoinders very carefully. A close-minded person will consider an insult. He will not entertain the notion that he is wrong. Given that we are all wrong on some issue at all times, the close-minded man makes this chronic. He is stuck in infancy.

As for your argument that close-minded people are better able to act, because they are sure, you are making the assumption that open-minded people are paralyzed by their acknowledgement of uncertainty. Far from it. Where the close-minded are comfortable with self-certainty, the open-minded are comfortable with uncertainty. They enjoy the instability of growth, which gives greater stability as they mature. You said there is no greater benefit then life then to be sure of your position. This is only true if your position is correct. If you are sure there is no hell, but there is one, your so-called benefit is your doom. Only the open minded have the right to be sure about any matter, for their knowledge is based on critical thinking, vigorous analysis, thorough questioning, and the consideration of positive and negative evidence.

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Now if the open minded do not have enough information, but have to make a decision, they will make the best decision they can. They are not paralyzed. Merely because open-minded people prefer to know as much as possible before making a decision does not, as you say, make them just like close-minded people. In fact, it makes them completely unlike close-minded people.



What bizarre extremes you propose: the insanity of open-mindedness on one end, and the hate of close-mindedness on the. Yet open-minded people may hate, when hate is called for, and close-minded people may be insane. What is open-mindedness? Open-minded people are open to new information, and close-minded are closed off to new information. Open-mindedness and close-mindedness are two choices that only an adult can make. Children are necessarily open-minded so that they can learn and mature. As we become adults, we have already adapted our main habits and personality traits, our thinking habits and belief habits. Here comes the crux. The moment we value a comfortable lie over the painful truth, we commit the intellectual sin that corrupts reason and common sense. It is against common sense.



The close-minded man lives by his unchanging habits, and forces all new information and new situations to conform to his ideals and images of the world. He will not and cannot fundamentally change. Sometimes a new situation demands that he changes at least superficially, and at such times he does so, with much pain and anguish. A close-minded democrat may admit to the fallibility of his party if the democratic politician were to denounce his pastor. Here he must change his habits of belief regarding either his church or his political party. You see now that close-mindedness is parasite to open-mindedness, for to remain closed off to new information, we must change enough to live. Yet even here, the close-minded man may lie about the problem, and spend as little time thinking about it as possible. No, close-minded people do not have common sense, and for them it is impossible. They can only use common sense when common sense agrees with their opinions and preconceived beliefs. If commons sense prodded them to change, grow, renounce, or sacrifice, they would declare it folly, and not see it as common sense. Close-mindedness itself is a denial of common sense; for it is obvious that openness to new ideas is good. Only the open-minded are capable of common sense, when it suits their preconceived ideas, and when it refutes their preconceived ideas. The reason that close-minded people are prone to hate is because they are afraid of innovation and change, and these fears lead to anger, and this anger leads to hate. You see then how unreasonableness leads to wrongful hate.



As your other dangerous extreme, you say that open-minded people go off into bizarre thinking directions beyond reason. To go beyond what I now think is reasonable is to dare for new truths. Your dangerous extreme sounds appealing. It is by no means insanity. For we must assume that just as the open-minded man is open to experimental ideas, he is also open to common sense and sensibility, and will live by common sense. Since he is wise, he will choose the reasonable, but first he experiments to see all the options, deciding from all the data what is reasonable and what is unreasonable. It is commons sense that we grow through experimentation. It is also commons sense that we protect ourselves from dangerous experimentation. Since the open-minded man is open to common sense as well as experimentation, he will put everything into context.



Therefore, a man cannot be too open-minded, for the more open-minded he is, the more he will be open-minded to common sense. The close-minded man, who sees the world as comfortable as possible, will use common sense when it fits him, and will deny that common sense is common sense when it does not fit him. He will not admit to error or change his fundamental flaws. A man cannot be too open-minded, but if he is too close-minded, he will be blinded to life, and will thus kill himself.



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