Open-Minded?

Although this sound odd, I’m concerned about having an open mind.

Actually, I’m not concerned about me having an open-mind, but I’m concerned about what many think constitutes open-mindedness.

We need to be open-minded but in terms of what honestly represents open-mindedness.

Concern About Being Open-Minded

I have seen several articles lately about being open-minded that expand the definition beyond what I think is logical.

The first troubling article was about an employer looking for an employee who was 1) open-minded and 2) someone they could mold into the type of employee that fits well with their organization.  An open-minded employee is not necessarily one who will be molded to match an organization.

This company was not looking for open-minded employees but wanted an employment base of closed minded people.

A second article was about open-mindedness being synonymous with having a cooperative attitude.  So, according to this article, having an open mind means we just go with the flow, don’t make waves, and agree to everything?

Christopher Hitchens once said, “The problem with open-mindedness is that it can become empty-mindedness.”

In a third article, the writer suggested having an open-mind adds to workplace flexibility.  Being flexible in your workplace is an advantage because your employees can serve many different functions.

But being flexible has little to do with being open-minded.  A close-minded employee can multitask, participate in an array of projects, and learn new things.

Open-Mindedness

Open-mindedness is counterintuitive.

Having an open mind requires effort.  Here are three exercises that will help develop an open mind.

First, our minds are designed to assimilate information and categorize it into compartments of preconceived notions and experiences.  We automatically reject information that doesn’t fit our set of compartments.  By effort, we can train our minds to accommodate this new information and not reject it. This is typically done by seeking information from a neutral party such as a counselor, a friend, or research the information through a neutral site.

A second way is to reframe your developed negative thoughts. This is a process of turning a negative thought into a positive, actionable idea.

For example, while you may normally reject the idea of liking brussels sprouts, you turn this negative thought into a positive by declaring you will try to learn to like brussels sprouts.  You become more open-minded about your choice of vegetables.

And the final idea is to get out of your comfort zone.  Your thoughts are built based on your experiences, so change your pattern of experiences.

Let’s say you do not like jazz music.  To change this attitude, you decide to open yourself to listening to a jazz radio station that will expose you to the broad array of jazz music.  Your new experience will give you a different perspective on jazz music.

The Bible

Although not popularly recognized, the Bible is a model of being open-minded. 1Thessalonians 5:21 says.

but test everything; hold fast what is good.

We need to be open-minded in terms of not discrediting others of their difference in views and accepting of their views if we find credible.  But once we find something we agree with, we can become less open-minded.  We listen with an open mind and compare what is being said by comparing it to the truths found in the Gospel.  If it passes this testing as “good,” we can believe it as true.

As followers of Jesus, we know what closed minded people are like. Acts 28:27 says.

For this people’s heart has grown dull,
and with their ears they can barely hear,
and their eyes they have closed;
lest they should see with their eyes
and hear with their ears
and understand with their heart
and turn, and I would heal them.’

The people that Jesus and His followers came against were classically closed-minded.  They could not believe Jesus was the Messiah, that He healed people, and that He was their salvation.

And yet, the early Christians continued to passionately, yet politely, make their case for Christ.  They did not resort to violence, slander or abuse.  They recognized the differences in people and allowed for those differences without discrimination.

We all need to be open-minded, but that does not mean we are without opinion or argument.  What we do need, however, is courtesy and compassion, just as the early Christian displayed as found in the Bible.