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).