The lyrics of a song that used to play on the radio whilst growing up came to me recently , the chorus goes thus :
“You’ve got to try a little kindness yes show a little kindness/Shine your light for everyone to see/And if you try a little kindness then you’ll overlook the blindness/Of narrow minded people on the narrow minded streets”
The lyrics struck a chord within me (we don’t seem to have a lot of lyrics like this anymore by the way ) and put a name to a dangerous malaise that is growing steadily amongst us and in the world in general.
We have, largely, become a narrow minded people, always thinking our position is the best, our ways are the best, our outlook to life is the best, our place of worship is the best, judging others by our standards and assuming the worst about people that we know nothing about.
The dictionary definition of narrow mindedness is that of a person with a limited outlook who is unwilling to consider alternative ideas, perspectives or thoughts, lacking in tolerance, not open-minded; bigoted, prejudiced.
The narrow minded person is largely judgmental because they hold everyone to their own standards and thoughts, they refuse to see things any other way apart from their way, they always believe themselves to be right, are very opinionated, unwilling to try out new things, incapable of logical and objective reasoning and unsurprisingly not independent in their thinking.
I must state that to some degree we all are narrow minded, some in more ways than others, and it stems right from our childhood. We are born into families that have a culture, whether or not the culture is consciously stated. So, we grow up with set ideas and ways of thinking and doing things. We eat certain things because we were brought up to eat them and hate certain foods because we didn’t eat them growing up. We also grow up looking down at certain places, things or people because of things we’d heard about them or our concept of them.
I confess to having been narrow minded in the past and admit to still being narrow minded about certain things even now.
I was a firm believer that things had to be a certain way to be right, I rarely thought I was wrong, I was critical about things that I didn’t understand and followed people blindly if I felt they were propagating my views of how the world should be.
I will give an example, for many years I thought that one had to be a “Christian,” worshiping God in a particular way for Him to be pleased or happy with one. I came to the understanding, albeit slowly, that God is not really concerned with our religions as He is about our character and values as individuals, I discovered that there were many kind and God fearing Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Sunnis, Shiites, Whites, Blacks, Indians etc. I realized that God causes the rain to fall and the sun to shine on us all because He is concerned about all of humanity not only those that seemingly worship Him in accordance with my standards.
When I came to the realization that God loves all of humanity and not only those I approve of, I was able to appreciate the good in other people who worshiped God differently from me. I didn’t necessarily accept all their beliefs but I understood that in their own ways and based on how they had been brought up, just like me, they were reaching out to God and I was able to adopt some of their practices for my good.
Please don’t get me wrong I am not advocating that we shouldn’t have standards or that certain things are not wrong neither am I saying that we must accept the totality of other’s views. What I am saying is that, we must be accepting of the fact that other people hold their views just as strongly as we do ours and that they, like us have a right to do so.
Our world has evolved largely due to the fact that people challenged the status quo, did not accept the stereotypes or prejudices they grew up with, were different in their thinking and approach to life. The results being seen in technology and science are beneficial to all of us and they stemmed from the willingness of scientists to be open minded in their approach and a forsaking of some of the things they knew or held to be sacrosanct.
Narrow mindedness hurts us more than the people we look down on because it puts us in a box, it confines us to little pleasures, it gives us a limited view of ourselves and humanity. Being more open minded has freed me from my self limitations and helped me love myself and people more ), enjoy the pleasures and wonders of life and really live.
My journey to being more open minded came as a result of several things.
- Reading – I have always loved books and reading is a great way to broaden one’s mind, it introduces one to new ideas, concepts and things. I read widely unlike a few years ago when I restricted myself to certain authors and topics and it has helped largely in understanding myself and humanity.
- Travel– travel is a great form of education and it is amazing what we learn just by being in a different environment. The beauty of today’s world is that you need not go to several places, you can immerse yourself in another culture and see how the other part of the world lives by watching documentaries, films etc.
- Making friends with people different from me in all categories – age, religion, gender, sexuality, race. We all have things to learn from each other if we let go of our prejudices. I recommend making friends with the old and young especially because we learn so much from their peculiar insights to life.
- Being curious about what is going on in the world- I became more open to new inventions, social media, innovations etc. we don’t always have to stick to the old ways of doing things. When twitter came out newly I criticized it and didn’t want to know much about it but having joined since 2012 , it’s been a huge learning ground for me.
- Being Objective – I always try, though sometimes fail, to look at things from other people’s perspectives. The truth is we can never know everything.
So, today, let’s resolve to be more open to new ideas and possibilities, let’s learn from others as much as we can because everyone has something to teach us if only we listen.
The benefits of being open-minded are worth the risk.