From the Jack’s Winning Words blog comes this morning’s inspiration – “I don’t necessarily agree with everything I say.” (Marshall McLuhan)
Jack when on to write – Sen. Everett Dirksen of Illinois was once criticized for changing his vote on a certain issue. His response: “The only people who do not change their minds are those in asylums or cemeteries.”
Do you change your mind on things over time? That’s usually a sign of keeping an open mind, which is a good thing. People who are labeled as “prejudiced” are many times people who hold some negative opinion or dislike for some group or groups of people and who are unable or unwilling to consider a different point of view. That is not to say that you have to agree with those people or practice whatever behavior it is that offends you that they display. But, it is to say that you at least try to understand that they have a different view of the world and come to peace with the fact that those differences exist. So long as the differences in appearance or behavior are not destructive or disruptive, what real difference does it make? Keep an open mind.
In our society, prejudices are an easy to spot sign of closed minds. We have racists , homophobes, anti-immigrationists, extreme nationalists and other groups who seem to make the nightly news. It is hard to tell whether it is fear or hate that is the primary driving force behind these groups, but interviews with members of the groups quickly demonstrate their closed-minded nature. Even for what we might call “normal” people, there are often many things that might cause discomfort or anxiety just beneath the surface of their otherwise calm expressions. Keep an open mind.
Keeping an open mind means allowing things to play out without preconceived notions about the outcome. It means taking the time to listen to, evaluate and trying to understand the other person’s point of view. It doesn’t require that you convert to that point of view; only that you understand and appreciate that it exists and that it most likely presents no threat to you. In fact, study after study in the business world has shown the benefits of having a diverse workforce with a rich diversity of ideas and approaches to the same issues, as opposed to having a homogeneous workforce that s all driven by the same set of beliefs and standards (and prejudices). Keep an open mind.
As for changing your mind; that is something that is a natural consequence of opening your mind. If you live by the mantra, “It’s this way; it’s always been this way; and, it will always be this way”, you face the prospect of joining the buggy whip makers of yesteryear on the dust heap of history. Some people wear a little bracelet with the letters WWJD on it. That stands for What Would Jesus Do and is a good way to pause and think about things before letting some preconception or prejudice dictate you actions. The bible says – “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God…” – Romans 12:2 Keep an open mind.
So, be open minded to differences and not fearful of them. Take the time to consider and appreciate the other person’s point of view. You don’t have to convert to that view; but, do try to understand it better. Be open to change, if you see that your old beliefs were wrong or ill-founded. Let go of the negatives and embrace the positives that can come out of diversity. Allow yourself the knowledge-expanding experiences that can accompany a diverse point of view. You need not follow the old American Indian advice to “walk a mile in the other person’s moccasins”, but at least mentally try those moccasins on and take enough steps in them to understand the different path that person is on. Keep an open mind.
Keeping an open mind will mean getting out of your comfort zone. Comfort zones are often defined by pre-conceived notions and even prejudices. Comfort zones have walls that are built at the edges of understanding, beyond which lies our fears, uncertainties and doubts. Comfort zones start at our mental dawn and runs until dusk, with everything beyond them hidden in the dark. You must be brave enough to venture into the dark in order to discover new things, have new experiences, make new friends and expand your knowledge. Rosa Parks put it well when she said – “I have learned over the years that when one’s mind is made up, this diminishes fear.” Make up your mind to Keep an open mind.