Thursday, June 4, 2009

You Must Be Open-Minded

I often hear people charge others with not being open-minded, claiming you need to be open-minded about issues that affect our society. Many people throw this claim around but I have never heard an explanation of what they mean by it.

Well, a while back, I was watching a news program where a guest presented a statement to the program’s host. The topic was political and the guest was a self proclaimed liberal while the host was a renowned conservative.

The guest stated “I am way more open-minded then you… I have supported more republican issues then you have democratic issues.” This guest, I’m afraid, has a misguided view of what open-mindedness is. They seemed to think open-mindedness was indicated by accepting a view you don’t agree with from people you don’t agree with.

Now I don’t know if this was actually their view but it seems fair to assume it is based on the context and use of their own statement. Also, it seems consistent with the way I have heard many others use this term. I hear this claim concerning moral issues, accepting other religious beliefs and other social issues.

Let me just say quickly that it is very important for you to ask clarifying questions to people. During your discussions or debates ask this simple question whenever needed, “What do you mean by that?” This simply question can help avoid miscommunication and help the other person think about what they are saying.*

Here is what I have come to understand open-mindedness to be. A person is open-minded about an issue when they present their point of view about an issue and are willing to subject that point of view to criticism or debate. It has nothing to do with abandoning your own belief but rather exploring why you believe it.

An open-minded person is one who seeks after what is true not after politically correct brownie points. An open-minded person is merely one who is willing to think about the arguments against their own point of view. As you may know, good arguments against a point of view can help people come to the truth about the matter.

You should believe in something not because it’s popular, feels good or someone told you so. You should believe in something because it is true. Therefore, a challenge to your viewpoint may show your argument was weaker then you thought (leading you to revise or reject it) or it may even help affirm your argument to be the more reasonable or true.**

It seems to me, the view that open-mindedness is defined by accepting the views of others you don’t agree with is itself narrow-minded. It narrowly believes there is no truth by arrogantly attempting to level the so called playing field of discussion.

The claim to be “open-minded” is more often then not used by opponents to bully others into accepting a particular view rather then encouraging rational debate. So next-time you hear someone use this phrase ask them what they mean by that.

* Concept taken from Gregory Koukl, Founder of Stand to Reason.
**Concept taken from Thinking About God, Gregory E. Ganssle, 36-37.


Aaron said...


Great tips and insight!

Dan said...

Nice observation, Brad.