Disagreement Isn’t Closed Minded

Years ago a coworker told me that she and her fiancé visited his Lutheran pastor because they were to be married in his church. The pastor asked her if she believed in Christ. She said no, she was raised Christian but is now a Unitarian-Universalist (most UUs believe in God but not the Trinity).

The pastor asked her why she was so closed minded. And that pissed her off. Not believing what he believes doesn’t make her closed minded, she told me. She respected his beliefs, and in the process of rejecting Christianity she had taken the time to educate herself about Christian belief.

Too often, when someone tells you that you don’t understand or that you’re not being open minded, what they really mean is that they want you to agree with them. But it’s entirely possible to understand a situation yet come to a different conclusion.

Religion and politics are where charges of closed mindedness occur most often. Who is more closed minded, conservatives or liberals? Or is that a bullshit question? I’ve met too many open minded conservatives and closed minded liberals, and open minded liberals and closed minded conservatives, to draw a facile conclusion. Rather, I think the more strident people’s ideologies, the less open minded they tend to be.

In brief, this is what open mindedness means to me: the effort to understand each perspective, even if I disagree; and trying to accurately and respectfully represent my opponent’s views without distortion (even if I sometimes fail).

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Author: Dave DuBay

Dave is a social worker from Phoenix, Arizona. He blogs at thepaintedporch.net. He's also at twitter.com/Dave_DuBay.

4 thoughts on “Disagreement Isn’t Closed Minded”

  1. What I think is interesting is the pros and cons of each. Being closed minded is usually considered an insult and being open minded is generally a compliment. And I’ll admit nothing frustrates me
    more than trying to have a conversation with a close minded person, but I think there are a few downsides to being open too. It’s hard to ever take a stand when you’re open minded because you know there is ALWAYS another perspective you haven’t thought of. Nothing is ever absolute. It seems to me there are times when being sure of yourself is advantageous, what do you think?

    Like

    1. There always is another perspective, but sometimes when we feel absolutely certain about something. And certainty can be mislabeled as closed minded when really it’s about how one goes about one’s certainty.

      When Maine voted on gay marriage in 2012 I voted for it and never considered voting against it. I’m certain I’m right, but I can still listen to what the other side has to say and not distort their position. And I don’t have to insist that they agree with me.

      The problem is when someone is unwilling to reciprocate, because if only one person is listening while the other is making straw men, then communication isn’t really happening.

      Liked by 1 person

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