Six Benefits From an Open Mind
OF THE many advantages of an open mind, we would like to discuss six. Give thought to whether you could perhaps derive greater benefit or pleasure from life by developing an open mind in this or that particular aspect.
1 Enriches Life
Remember when you were a child? How exciting life was! How thrilling to explore everything new that came along. You were—as most children normally are—open-minded, receptive to new impressions. You did not know what prejudice meant.
But have you retained this open-minded attitude toward new things? Or have you become like the foreign traveler who complains that he can’t find the food he is accustomed to eating at home? Of course, taking certain health precautions as regards food and drink when traveling may be necessary. For example, it may be wise to drink only bottled water and, particularly in the tropics, to avoid raw vegetables and salads. But, outside of that, what prevents you from at least trying some of the local cuisine? The natives have been enjoying it for years. You may not know what you are missing!
And how do you feel about foreign customs? They may be somewhat strange viewed from your standpoint. But “strange” does not mean “inferior.” It is a closed mind that insists that “our way of doing things is better.” So even though you may still prefer a knife and fork to chopsticks, your life will be enriched once you learn to eat with them.
Why rob yourself of association with other ethnic groups because their way of life may be different? A German graduate of the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead recalls that he had never enjoyed close contact with people from other nations until he attended this missionary school in 1962. “I was part of a student body composed of students from 50 different countries,” he remembers, “from such faraway places as Japan, Papua New Guinea, the Congo, Argentina and India. At first my feelings toward them were mixed, but in the course of time, after becoming better acquainted with them, I learned to love them. It was an experience that greatly enriched my life and broadened my horizons.” Your life, too, will become more meaningful if you widen out to enjoy the full variety to be found within the human family.
2 Contributes to Better Health
The total and lasting cure for illness is beyond man’s power to find, either at present or in the future. But divine help is on the way. God’s new system of things will soon displace today’s society that is sick both physically and morally. Then, “no resident will say: ‘I am sick.’”—Isaiah 33:24.
In the meantime we seek temporary relief from physical ailments. There are any number of medical treatments to choose from. Having an open mind, we will not condemn any of them simply on the basis of their being unusual or unorthodox. We will also realize that what may be effective for one person may not work for another. Thus, although we exercise due caution, an open mind will open up a much wider scope of medical therapies to choose from than a closed mind would ever allow.
An open mind helps us maintain a cheerful attitude. A closed mind is poisoned by prejudice and hate. It is unloving and therefore detrimental to health. As one psychiatrist said: “It is easier to hate, but healthier to love.” Yes, modern medicine has discovered the Bible truth that “a tranquil mind gives life to the flesh” and that “a cheerful heart is a good medicine.”—Proverbs 14:30; 17:22, Revised Standard Version.
3 Promotes Mental Growth
It has been estimated that your brain has the capacity to remember 10,000 times as much material as is recorded in the Encyclopædia Britannica! Why stifle this tremendous capacity by allowing a closed mind to limit your intake of knowledge?
A closed mind brings mental growth to a standstill. This is dangerous because a closed mind is incapable of correcting improper or wrong ideas and views. An open mind, on the other hand, leads to maturity and greater mental balance. It helps us broaden the foundation upon which to base our views and make our decisions. Thus, the greater likelihood we have of making correct ones.
4 Helps in Solving Problems
To solve problems successfully we need to be willing to accept wise counsel. Proverbs 15:22 says: “There is a frustrating of plans where there is no confidential talk, but in the multitude of counselors there is accomplishment.” An open mind helps us to accept the counsel of those around us, people with whom we work, live and associate. This leads to accomplishment and success.
An open mind will help us pick up counsel by way of example, even when the one giving it may be unaware of that fact. This is illustrated by what a Christian missionary’s wife used to tell her husband whenever he became upset at the way people were doing things. “Remember,” she would remind him, “you can learn something from everyone—if it’s no more than how not to do something.”
Yes, we can benefit greatly by not closing our minds to the thoughts and conduct of others. By open-mindedly contemplating “how their conduct turns out,” we can either imitate or avoid their course of action, as the case may be.—Compare Hebrews 13:7.
5 Promotes Good Relationships
Did you ever jump to conclusions that later proved to be incorrect? How embarrassing. But even worse, how painful if this caused a severe strain on your marriage or on a treasured friendship. An open mind would have prevented you from making up your mind about the matter until all the evidence was in. This, in turn, would have prevented you from speaking too soon. The Bible’s sage observation about this at Proverbs 18:13 is: “When anyone is replying to a matter before he hears it, that is foolishness on his part and a humiliation.”
It is truly difficult to have a fine relationship with narrow-minded people who see everything only from their perspective, not allowing for differences of opinion, taste and preference. And what is more narrow-minded than a closed mind?
Of course, an open mind should not be so open or broad that it loses sight of moral principles and adopts the view that “anything goes.” But by open-mindedly trying to understand a person, we are not condoning his wrong actions. We are simply trying to determine why he thinks or acts as he does. Are there extenuating circumstances? Could it be the way he was brought up, his background or his environment? Could it be lack of knowledge?
Being open-minded as regards the faults and weaknesses of others will make it easier for us to show them empathy. It will not be difficult to reach out to them in Christian love, helping them to change wrong actions and attitudes. It will make for meaningful relationships.
6 The Most Important Advantage
A sixth advantage of an open mind is so important that it deserves more detailed consideration. It, too, has to do with our relationship with others, this time with our Creator, Jehovah God, and with his Son and our Redeemer, Christ Jesus.
Our relationship with our fellowman, while important, can mean at most only the difference between happiness and unhappiness. Our relationship with Jehovah God and Christ Jesus means the difference between life and death! See the next article for details.