There are so many people in the world today who don’t venture to understand other perspectives, they know what they believe and that’s enough for them, as a result they judge people who think differently than they do and they miss out on experiences or beliefs that might suit them. These people fail to realize the importance of an open mind.
I never really knew how to see things beyond my own perspective or think critically about my own beliefs until I moved to Malawi, a small country in Southern Africa.
Living in the United States, I become the kind of person who didn’t want to hear alternative viewpoints. I was willfully ignorant. Many of my friends and teachers in Malawi were Atheists, a word that had a negative connotation to me then. They told me what the believed, and I disregarded what they said. They recommended books like The God Delusion and I refused to look at them. I didn’t realize that refusal to see beyond my beliefs showed nothing but weakness of mind rather than strength of belief.
Being surrounded by people with different cultures and viewpoints I eventually made a realization that I would never really learn anything or be able to make an informed decision if I refused to consider other perspectives. I found that sometimes through investigating alternative beliefs you discover a belief that is more suited for you, so being open to other viewpoints can only yield benefits, either you can solidify your own beliefs or find new ones.
Though I am still searching for what I believe in, I no longer selectively ignore anything. Now I own the book, The God Delusion, which I once abhorred. I no longer listen for what I want to hear instead I listen for what there is to be heard and though I may not initially agree with what’s being said, I’ll continue to listen, and who knows maybe I’ll be swayed.
I also realized my ignorance of other opinions had caused me to judge people. I didn’t understand why Atheists believed what they did and I judged their character. Being receptive towards other’s beliefs has prevented me from judging them.
Having an open mind can motivate you to experience new things. It’s human nature to establish a comfort zone. While remaining in your comfort zone might appease you, facing your fears and stepping out of your comfort zone could end up being completely worth it.
You can exercise an open mind by listening to different music or looking at different art. There may be something that you think you could never appreciate, but understanding why others appreciate it, and being able to tolerate it is key in an open mind.
So next time you are offered that food that you say you hate, which you have never tried, accept it and see how it goes. If you still hate it, then you tried to appreciate it and no one can question the motives of your opinion.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.