Dealing with differences
Closed-mindedness is an attitude that doesn’t want to look at a new idea or event. It makes us tight, prejudiced and defensive. It arises, for example, when certain controversial subjects come up at the dinner table. With closed-mindedness we react like an ostrich: we want to “stick our heads in the ground” and not examine any new idea which could shake our stubborn conceptions.
Such an attitude brings many problems in our lives. Ifwe examine history, we can see how detrimental closed-mindedness has been to human development. Closed-mindedness made pe0ple oppose scientific investigation in the Middle Ages; closed-minded fear made people in Europe ignore the murder of millions of innocent people under the Nazi regime. Closed-mindedness also condones racial, religious and gender prejudice.
Looking beneath the closed-minded attitude, we find a preconceived idea that we have everything figured out and we don’t want to be shaken by new ideas. We have a subtle fear that should the sandcastle of our world-view be shattered by a new idea, we would be lost. Consequently, we would rather be stubborn and not listen, or forget about it and watch television, go gambling, or get drunk. It’s clear how closed-mindedness makes us tight and uncomfortable.
Seeing the pitfalls of closed-mindedness, we’ll endeavor to develop an intelligent approach to new ideas and events. We’ll listen to new ideas and examine them with logic in an intelligent, unbiased way. With the intention of improving our understanding and contributing to world peace and human development, we’ll listen to new ideas and proposals. Whether or not we later accept an idea, we’ll learn something by examining it intelligently, and our understanding will become clearer.
Being open-minded, however, doesn’t mean we accept every new idea we run across. This is especially true in the “spiritual supermarket” existing in the West now. Nor does open-mindedness mean we so desperately want to be modern that we throw out our rich cultural heritage and blindly follow every new idea or scheme.
With open minds, we’ll be tolerant. Having logically examined a new idea and checked for evidence to validate it, if we decide we don’t agree with it, we can still be calm and friendly with another person who does. Disagreeing with an idea doesn’t mean that we hate a person who accepts it. The idea and the person are different. Also, people’s ideas change. We can appreciate what others say-be it correct or nonsensicalbecause it challenges us to think and thus to increase our wisdom.
When we find ourselves across the table from a person talking about a new subject or idea, we can approach the conversation with joy in learning, rather than with a judgmental attitude that has already decided the other person is wrong. We’ll let ourselves listen, reflect, grow and share, while we re-examine our previous ideas.
Such an approach is beneficial in many circumstances. For example, we’ll encourage our colleagues, boss and subordinates to give feedback about past projects and to suggest future im-provements. Such openness improves the atmosphere at work. With open minds, we can then accurately evaluate their ideas and can work together with others for our mutual benefit. Al-though a boss will still have authority, he or she no longer will be authoritarian.
We don’t have to defend our ideas or beliefs. There’s nothing in an idea that makes it inherently ours. If someone criticizes our ideas, it doesn’t mean that we’re stupid. Also, there’s no need to fear losing face should we re-evaluate an idea and change our minds. Fear of seeming foolish if our ideas are proved incorrect comes from caring more about having a good reputation than about discerning what is true. With open minds, we’ll approach every idea and situation as an opportunity to learn and to share with others.