Open-minded Like Me

Often, I’ll engage in a conversation with someone who identifies as open-minded. A few minutes in, we realize yes! We feel similarly about topics – birth control/politics/gender equality – that close minded people see as too liberal. A few more minutes, still yes! We turn out to be part of the same network, perhaps we know some of the same people, or follow the same blogger.

Sometimes, we hit a hurdle, though. It’s interesting that one can be open minded about many things, and completely closed off in certain situations. There might be reasons – ‘well, my family has always felt that large government is not what this country needs’. Or ‘sure, but sex work isn’t the same as coal mining – one’s a job, one’s illegal.’

When the observation is made that – on so many other subjects, they seem open minded, the responses can be curious – ‘how do you figure? Let’s walk through why my viewpoint is still in line with my other beliefs’. They can be curt – ‘there’s just a line you don’t cross.’ But what almost never seems to occur is that neither side recognizes that each party only felt that the other was open-minded when they were in agreement.

I’d imagine this happens in conservative circles as well – a collective of like-minded viewpoints, until a point of contention occurs ‘well, my brother is gay, and I’m proud of him’, and the same explaining likely occurs.

On a human level, are we prepared to consider only those who agree with us entirely as peers? As friends? As partners? Surrounded by copies of oneself, how can we grow?

To be open-minded means allowing in curiosity, leaving judgment in the front yard. To learn where your locked doors are, and try several keys until you know what the room holds.

And to remember that we are not static: new rooms can be added on, old spaces can have walls knocked down, and front porches can welcome new ideas, or put a barrier between change and belief.

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