the quest for open-mindedness

I have faced many obstacles in my life as I have gotten older. Health issues, financial issues and a turbulent marriage both scarred me as well as taught me many lessons. I have largely let go of anger and bitterness over things from my past and have learned to pick and choose what I allow to bother me. I can almost say that I have conquered all of my demons. Except one. I struggle with open-mindedness.

To be clear, I am not closed-minded by any means. I am largely receptive to opposing viewpoints and I am civil and tolerant of those who disagree with me. But that’s a learned behavior not a mindset. In my heart of hearts I still get annoyed, even angered by things that go against my grain. And it bothers me.

I’m sure that I am not alone in this, especially among my age group. I was raised in a wonderful time period. I was exposed to the influence of my Grandparents, people who lived through the Great Depression and a World War. They knew frugality, community and practiced old-fashioned values of honesty, integrity, civility and the unspoken bond of a handshake. I then had my parents, who had the luxury of the same influence but also of the societal shifts in the 50’s and 60’s that saw great turmoil but also resulted in an expanded view of the world and society in general. Yet, they both were largely black and white on a lot of things. Unfortunately, I have been accused of that very thing. I was very bothered by that accusation. I didn’t agree and resented it. I had a black and white reaction to being called black and white. Isn’t that irony?

Being black and white is a defense mechanism. We take between 18 and 30 years to form our identity and belief system. Our identity can either be our aura that casts light on the world or a suit of armor that shields us from that which threatens us. I feel it safe to say that as we get older it is almost inevitable that our identity becomes a shield. Unless of course we make the effort to recognize and change the pattern.

This is the road that I am on. I am annoyed at the extremes of society that gnaw at my sensibilities. While I have never lacked compassion or empathy, I have had a fairly narrow view of the world. I sometime feel that part of me fights to maintain that narrow view as another part of me struggles to escape the confines of my upbringing and take a broader view. It is a daily struggle.

The knee-jerk reaction is the thing that has to go. Life is not about what happens but instead how you react to it. The knee-jerk reaction happens when something that you don’t agree with results in a visceral and personal reaction. But it’s not personal and it only affects your life if you allow it. Very few things are actually a personal affront. Yet we act as if they are. I’m guilty of it. It took me a long time to admit and address it but I’ve made progress. I have come to the conclusion that in this day and age of bad behavior, short attention spans, poor education and general lack of civility people have taken sides. When one takes sides, it is not unlike war. Defend your position and attack when able. It’s going on everywhere but I refuse to add to the insanity anymore. I have chosen to take the “walk a mile in their shoes” mentality. Every hot-button issue exists because a percentage of the population is affected by it. It is not an attack on me and I need to remind myself of that. Constantly. It sometimes requires me to even count to 3.

Everyone is entitled to an opinion. There is a caveat of course, it must be an informed and properly communicated opinion. Just as in childhood, we responded positively to a even tone of voice laced with understanding, even love. When we were yelled at, we closed ourselves off and most importantly, fought to keep the words out. I am very open to an even voice, I am angered by being yelled at. In the whirlwind of the hundreds of issues debated constantly, the message is often drowned out by the noise and anger behind it. Thus, so is the reaction to it.

I have decided to count to 3 before I speak or type, I will then look at as many angles of the issue at hand as I can. I will do some research if necessary. Most importantly, I will try to not be offended. And then, once all that is completed, I will measure my response. If I even choose to offer one. I’ve been practicing this recently and I have to tell you it works. If more people adopt this mindset, imagine the difference in our current climate?

At an age where many are closed off, I want to open up. Many of my fellow bloggers are already on this path and I openly admire them for it. They are ahead of me. It’s up to me to catch up.

I want to end with a question? Would you call yourself open-minded?

22 thoughts on “the quest for open-mindedness”

  1. I come from a kind of a unique perspective, in my circle of family and friends. I started in the early 90’s with a Rush Limbaugh-esque conservative point of view and carried that with me, obstinately, for years. I can remember celebrating the Republican Revolution in ’96, the hanging chad victory in ’00 and even the Invasion of Iraq in 2003. I argued vehemently with my math professor on that one, and even wrote my term paper on it in my critical thinking class. My liberal professor gave me an A+. Good dude. But I was very close-minded.

    Around the collapse of ’07 I began to dig deeper, to listen to the nagging voices inside instead of shouting them down. I purposely started reading just as much of the opposing opinion as I was of the conservative stuff. I had long, sometimes heated, discussions with my friends (and online classmates) about … everything. But I started to listen instead of just talk. I opened my mind.

    Today I have friends who use the same close-minded arguments against me that I used in the 90’s. I see them completely reject opposing points of view. But I don’t shout them down. I explain the alternatives and leave it at that. I know where they are; I’ve been there.

    The hardest person to convince of alternatives is ourselves. I fought that battle, for years, and now I consider all the possibilities. A lot of my conclusions are considered “leftist” or “socialist” by others, now, but that’s just close-minded thinking. There’s a lot of good ideas that can be put in place, from all perspectives.

    Glad to see you on the path, my friend. I have been there, for much the same reasons you are. I know some others in my circle that have taken those first steps, too. Keep an open mind. Believe what you believe, in your heart, to be true, but always, always know that it might not be.

    Of course, it’s true what Bertrand Russell said about that: “The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt.”

    Welcome to the wonderful world of doubt. 😉

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I think I’ve always been largely open-minded, but I had to almost force myself to stick to it. But in the last few years we have digress so badly in communicating that I now feel attacked for my positions. Which leads to being defensive

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I really thought i was, but i have a problem with those that aren’t. Its the old “practice what you preach” scenario. If it is expected of me to respect others why do i feel like i am not on the receiving end? I think trying to look at a situation from all sides is commendable, especially when you are trying to make a point. If you can relate or speak the proverbial language of the opposition you may just get somewhere, rather than using scare tactics.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I can relate. The folks who consider themselves staunch conservatives in my circle are always on the attack whenever I present an alternative explanation. Not to say it’s only them, I see that kind of intolerance on both sides all the time.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You were an inspiration for this post Tom. While I don’t always agree with you, you have the ability to see both sides of an issue. The anger is on both sides and it does nothing but further polarize us

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I am from the same era as you, and lament the loss of civility and working together to find a common cause or common ground.

    I have my opinions and belief system, but guess I’m open-minded in the sense that I will always consider the opposite point of view and strip away the rhetoric. I will state my case, and agree to disagree without being disagreeable. I’m not going to shove my points of view about any of the hot-button items (politics, religion, sex) down anyone’s throat.

    Unless they’re being an asshole about it, of course

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Love your way to look at things.I suppose if someone is open Minded should not even realize they are as it comes natural,it’s their way to look at things,their attitude,it’s the way they are not the way they act.It is like the one who constantly reinforce that they are alternative or like to braK the rules……if you really are alternative you shouldn’t even realized you are that way because you know no other way and that is the norm.I am not sure if I have been able to explain myself ,I hope so .😊

    Liked by 3 people

    1. You explained yourself very well. I get exactly what you’re saying. If you are one way it’s hard to be any other way or even know there is another way.
      To be fair I’m not even sure that I explained myself in this post. It’s a big subject

      Liked by 3 people

  5. Most of us will go our entire lives without this degree of introspection and attempt at self-improvement. How you are able to continuously stop and review like this is powerful mojo. I hope to draw strength from you like this myself. Thank you so much shining a light on yourself for me.

    Liked by 5 people

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