There is a common misconception about open-mindedness as being accepting of everything. Accepting ideas as equally valid and all lifestyles and moral choices equally acceptable.
This isn't the definition of open-mindedness I subscribe to*, although I'm open-minded enough to be willing to change my views. :P
Open-mindedness is the willingness to change one's views based on the evidence presented.
Unfortunately, admitting we are wrong is often extremely difficult for us to do, and for a variety of reasons. Many of us have formed our identity around our beliefs (Muslim, Christian, Jew, Hindu, etc), and to admit a fault in our beliefs threatens our identities.
Humans often dread the sense of doubt. If you've been emotionally and intellectually invested in a worldview, admitting a crack often means revising the entire structure of our belief system, making us feel vulnerable and exposed to doubt as we scramble to find another ideological footing.
We sometimes worry about the consequences of admitting we are wrong and others are right. How will this new conclusion impact my existing relationships and affiliations? Do I have to cancel my support for the causes I used to believe in? Do I have to publicly admit that I'm at fault?
The sense of identity, fear of doubt, and fear of consequences can make open-mindedness seem undesirable as a path to take. It seems like there's too much at stake.
- If we don't form our identity around our beliefs and base it, instead, on being truth seekers, then not being open-minded threatens our identity
- If we are more afraid of embracing false beliefs masquerading as truth, doubt becomes our salvation from falsehood and a stepping stone towards truth
- If we recognize that admitting truth is a virtue not a vice, then those who truly care about truth won't be offended by our pursuit of it. Admitting when we are wrong is an act of courage, not a sign of weakness
Open-mindedness is essential for healthy living, psychological well-being, scientific and technological advancement, and cultural flourishing.
In my university years I wanted to be a truth seeker, not a belief confirmer. I didn't want to accept beliefs simply because I was told they were true. I would therefore imagine myself embracing different religions or going through the hardships of confessing the change in my beliefs, so I would condition myself to accept such changes, without allowing fear to determine the beliefs I chose to embrace.
How do you seek to become more open-minded?
* Accepting other people's freedom to make their own life choices is another matter that overlaps with open-mindedness, but isn't identical to it.
Open-mindedness is the willingness to embrace different beliefs, whereas liberalism (in the classical sense) is the acknowledgment that humans function best when they live by their own conclusions, without being coerced into accepting conclusions their reasons and experiences don't support.
You can choose to persuade others without imposing your views and values on them.