Being Open Minded


You Can Rise No Higher Than Your Lowest Opinion of Another

Children need food and water. Their survival depends on that. But they also need recognition, acceptance, and love. Their emotional health depends on that. Just as plants that are insufficiently watered wither and die or have their growth stunted, children who are denied sufficient love grow up wounded. Their wounds hurt. Unless they learn how to heal themselves, they will look for temporary relief.

Wounded children grow up and become wounded adults. Since no one taught us how to heal ourselves, we seek momentary relief by always trying to be right. Yes, many of us have a need to be right all the time. For we associate being right with being worthy. Suppose you and I engaged in a conversation and I strongly disagreed with everything you said, how would you feel? The average person would feel threatened and insecure, for if I challenge your ideas, I'm challenging you.

If I treated your ideas as worthless, wouldn't I be suggesting that you, too, are worthless? Why would I do that? Well, we criticize others to feel better about ourselves. So, in order to make up for the love that I was denied as a child, I attack you, a perfectly innocent person! Not that I want to punish you; I just want you to admit that I am right and you are wrong, for in doing so, I will get the recognition and approval I desperately seek.

Even if I were to get you to admit I am right, all I would succeed in doing is to transfer my pain to you. My relief would come at your expense. So, regardless who wins the argument, we both lose because our relationship would suffer. We are only as strong or as weak as our relationships, so it doesn't make any sense to damage them. When dealing with co-workers, friends, and family, we have to ask ourselves, do I want to be right and weaker or agreeable and stronger; do I want to think about ME or do I want to think about WE?

Besides weakening our relationships, insisting on being right has the awful consequence of transforming us into the person we don't want to be. You see, we become arrogant, self-righteous, and sanctimonious. Our narrow-minded and know-better-than-you attitude drives people away. It's not only people we drive away. We also drive away knowledge. For by refusing to consider the opinions of others, we slam the door on new ideas. One of the greatest thinkers of our time, Edward de Bono, had this to say, "The need to be right all the time is the biggest bar to new ideas. It is better to have enough ideas for some of them to be wrong than to be always right by having no ideas at all."

When someone expresses opinions that differ from yours, there is good reason to stop and listen. After all, you can be wrong! Think back; how many of the ideas that you held ten years ago have you changed? It's impossible for us to improve without CHANGING for the better. Our thoughts, opinions, and beliefs also need changing. Sometimes they need to be replaced. Other times they merely need to be broadened or improved by commingling the ideas of others with our own.

When we remain open-minded and willingly embrace the ideas of others, we participate in our own self-growth. And as we see ourselves improve, we raise our level of self-esteem, thereby decreasing our need to always be right. Also, by welcoming the ideas of others, we increase their confidence. Those who need to be right depend on others for their self-esteem. They need to have others recognize and approve of them. But as we grow increasingly interested in DOING right, rather than BEING right, we boost our confidence and self-respect and are no longer dependent on others for our own happiness.

So, always try to be open-minded. When others speak, don't look for points to disagree with, but look for wisdom that you can add to your own. The open-minded see the truth in different things, but the narrow-minded see only the differences. We need our differences. For they provide us with more options and possibilities, making us stronger and wiser.

Another reason for welcoming our differences is that they offer an opportunity to give the treasured gifts of tolerance and acceptance to others. By relinquishing our right to be right and turning over power to others we grant them the right to be themselves. One can hardly offer anyone a greater gift. If, despite our urge to be right, we act generously, we will discover the exciting truth that we have enough inner strength to conquer our vulnerabilities. As our mentality changes from victim to victor, our self-doubts slowly dissolve.

Another discovery we will make is that it is only after recognizing and accepting others that we will finally find the recognition and acceptance we have been looking for. Yet another discovery is that our bad habits do not have to define us, for we can change our thoughts and behaviour at any time.

The path to change involves being aware of our thoughts and asking the right questions. For example, if you find yourself constantly arguing with your spouse, you need to ask yourself, "Do I want to be right or do I want to be happy? Do I want to be an individual who is always right or do I want to be part of a loving relationship? Do I want to be right and hurtful or do I want to be accepting and caring. Do I wish to take what I can from this relationship and weaken it or do I wish to contribute what I can to it and strengthen it?

Ralph constantly gets irritated by his wife's "stupid" questions. She asks him about things that shealready knows the answer to. That upsets Ralph because it is "illogical" to ask about what you already know. But it is Ralph who is illogical because his anger is driving a wedge between him and his wife, Courtney. Does that make any sense? What Ralph did not understand is that Courtney was not ASKING QUESTIONS, she was merely MAKING CONVERSATION. She was expressing her love by inviting her husband to speak. She was working on building the relationship, which is the logical thing to do.

Perhaps we can't all be experts on the differences between the way men and women think, but we don't have to be. All we have to do is respect others and abandon our need to be right. As long as we do the right thing, things will work out right. Finally, be careful of what you think of others, for you can rise no higher than your lowest opinion of another.

© Chuck Gallozzi
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