The True Meaning of Being Open-Minded

A lot of people like to think they’re open-minded. “I’m totally open-minded about cohabiting,” or “I’m totally open-minded about gay marriage.”

Open-mindedness is not about being fine with the things that you’re fine with. If you’re fine with it, then who cares how open you are about it? It’s your opinion. You own it. You agree with it. On the contrary, being open-minded is exactly what’s needed when it’s something you don’t – or even can’t – agree with.

Being open-minded is allowing yourself to be open to the possibility that there may be other ways – other than the way you think is right. It’s saying ‘No’ to narrow-mindedness – the belief that there is only a right way and a wrong way, or that there’s only one entrance and one exit to the maze that is Life.

Fact is: There are a million pathways. And sure, you might think any way but yours will lead to doom, or should not even exist in the first place; fair enough, that’s your opinion. But you have to at least acknowledge they are there, whether you like it or not. And then hopefully open yourself up to the possibility that perhaps, just perhaps, they might lead somewhere, too.

The problem is, all our lives, we are taught one way of doing things, one way that things should be, and that one way becomes the only way, built into our psyche, our entire universe. But guess what? It’s precisely the same thing for the person next to you. And that’s already two really different, diverse ways of doing things. Add more people, and you’ll discover every person might have their own set of rules and values and habits and preferences.

If we all live with the attitude that only our way is the right way, we’ll never have room for others’ opinions. We’ll shut them down before they can even start explaining. We’ll never give them a chance, never give another way an opportunity, never learn new things, never try new things. We’ll be stuck the exactly same flawed way we are, moulded by all those negative disappointments and failures and upsets in life, and never discover the possibility of a better way.

But okay, say it doesn’t lead to a better way. But ah, that’s the other great thing about being open-minded. It doesn’t mean you have to accept it. Understanding is not accepting. Understanding is comprehending where someone else is coming from, seeing their point of view, learning of a new path. You’re totally allowed to disagree with it. You just have to respect it. You just have to acknowledge that while it doesn’t make any frikkin’ sense to you at all, it makes sense to them. And they should be able to live by that, as much as you should be allowed to live by your own thinking.

It’s called open-mindedness because it is literally opening our mind to many, many possibilities, and understanding that our way is just as much merely a “possibility” to others as theirs is to us. It takes the ego away from the situation, and reduces our way to simply one way out of a million, thus humbling us as a person.

It reminds us that we’re just a speck in this vast ocean of people. It helps us take a step back and look at the bigger picture, that we’re all out here just trying to be good people, lead a good life, be happy. We all just have different ways of achieving that. And there are no right ways or wrong ways (except murder and hurting others and such), just my way, your way – and his way and her way and their way… and Frank’s way. But of course.

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