Part 2: The Difference Between Narrow- Mindedness and Ignorance

(Part 1)

Ignorance

They recognise their own ignorance: There is no shame in acknowledging that we are all ignorant – whether we are rich or poor, male or female, able or disabled, from the frigid North Pole to the scorching hot dunes of the Sahara, we are all ignorant about something. Despite what you’ve been hearing from the hyper-political media of today, ignorance knows no people group. It’s okay to acknowledge this reality. Not only is this okay but recognising the ignorance inside all of us can humble and unify us.

However, if we allow ourselves to think that we are more ignorant than we really are, we might turn ourselves into the victims of narrow-minded people – this can happen to people who are in manipulative relationships with their “friends”, or even with their own family members. These are narrow-minded people who choose to remain willfully blind to their own ignorance so that they can gleefully revel in yours. They can make themselves look like the good guy to you because they make you feel guilty for things that you shouldn’t feel bad about. For example, maybe you’re a man who has to deal with a third-wave feminist telling you that you are part of the “tyrannical” patriarchy.

If you suspect that you are the victim of someone who fits the criteria of a narrow-minded person, don’t be afraid to be sincere and stand up for yourself. If you don’t, you will continuously feel like the impossible is being expected from you. You will be like a rubber band that the other person tries to stretch beyond your limit. Once you snap, you will backlash into their face making them angrier at you than they were before. If you feel like you are being stretched too thin don’t hide your true feelings for too long. Even if you’re aware that you don’t know this person’s experience, don’t doubt that you are in the right by calling him or her out for their closed-minded attitude towards you.

Unknown

Temporary denial: This past summer I found myself in a situation where I thought that people were acting closed-minded towards me, but in reality, I don’t think they intended to be closed-minded. My job search councillor sent me to a meeting with two people who run a career-search workshop. When I got there, these people acted shocked by my life experience that was very different from theirs—they reacted negatively to the things that I haven’t done yet before they knew what I have done. Their emotions seemed to go in this order: unbelief, shock, anger, disappointment and then pity. From their tone of voice, and their impulsive jump into an emotional reaction, my first impression was that they were unopen and unwilling to understand my history, and current situation from growing up as an autistic Military brat moving every two to four years.

I wrote a narrative about my time with them from my perspective, and then e-mailed it to them with a carbon copy to my job search councillor. My job search councillor helped me to see things differently. I realize now that the way I wrote my narrative made me sound closed-minded. She helped me to understand where I might have misinterpreted them. She called the work shop people right after getting my carbon copy. She told me what they said to her—they told her that they learned a lot from what I wrote. I don’t know the background of these people, but somebody told me after this event that people who seldom move may struggle to understand a different kind of life outside of their home town. No matter what the situation, I think that not understanding me right off the bat wasn’t their fault. However, I do wish that they’d reply to my apology e-mail so that I’d know for sure that they forgave me, and that I forgave them.

Were we being narrow-minded, or just ignorant? I don’t know. This is where the barrier between the two starts to become hazy. These two people and myself seem to have fallen into this blurry in-between area. Sometimes emotions cause us to fall into a state of denial against whatever we are hearing or seeing. It’s easy to misunderstand this reaction as closed-mindedness when, in fact, denial might just be the first step in hearing information that seems shocking at first exposure.

This might also be why denial is known as the first step people go through while grieving. In good conscience, we would never say that someone who’s grieving, and experiencing denial is “closed-minded to reality”. We know that it’s nothing more than a temporary reaction to something the person had previously felt was impossible.

Conclusion

I hope that this two part blog post helped you to see ignorance in a more nuanced light. The world today makes ignorance seem so much simpler than it really is and that causes us to hurt each other – can we think differently about this?

Netivity

Christmas will be here in just a few days—Christmas is a time to remember when forgiveness came to us in the form of a newborn baby. When the baby grew up, He showed us how to let go of our narrow-mindedness so that we can see ourselves in others. Try to see yourself in Justin Trudeau—try to see yourself in Donald Trump—this will be hard if you dislike one or both of these men, but it’s worth a try.  I can now see a glimpse of myself in the workshop owners because I know that I reacted similarly towards them to how they reacted towards me.  However, this was just a glimpse.  I still forget my own faults, and then accuse others for shortcomings that I’ve also been guilty of.  The journey towards self-awareness will never end in this life; however, If we are willing to see ourselves in others, we will still be ignorant, but we will never again be narrow-minded.

Let’s bravely say what we truly feel about narrow-mindedness, and have more mercy for other people’s, and our own ignorance.  Merry Christmas!

 

 

Part 1: The Difference Between Narrow-Mindedness and Ignorance

Where do we draw the line between narrow-mindedness and ignorance? The line is very fine, so it is difficult to detect it in other people, and even in ourselves; however, it’s important that we learn how to recognize the difference between the two — terrible things can happen if we don’t. We can end up causing a lot of pain because we misunderstood someone else’s ignorance as closed-mindedness, or they misunderstood us in this same way. Knowing the difference between the two might prevent us from expecting others to pay an unrealistic price that shouldn’t have to be paid – all because they, just like us, don’t know everything about the world.

Ignorance is usually harmless, but if we deny that we are ignorant our innocence turns into narrow-mindedness. If we see ourselves as knowing everything, then naturally, we will see others as stupid, uninformed, and maybe even evil.

I decided to split this blog post into two parts.  Today I will list three traits of narrow-minded people.  Tomorrow I will post about one trait of ignorance, and then I’m going to talk about a time this year when I couldn’t recognize the difference between the two in myself and others—I’m going to tell you the story that inspired me to write this blog post in the first place.  Stay tuned tomorrow for the second part about ignorance, and to read my story.  In the meantime prepare for yourself a steaming hot cup of cocoa (a couple gingerbread and shortbread cookies can’t hurt either) , get comfortable, and join me as we contemplate on three traits of narrow-mindedness that we should look out for in ourselves and others.

Hot Cocoa

Narrow-Mindedness

Calls other people “ignorant”: Whenever I look at media today, the news, internet, etc., I notice a strange trend. The characters on our electronic screens point their fingers at others and call them “ignorant” as if not knowing things makes them evil.  You don’t know anything about Indigenous culture?! “If you are not Indigenous yourself, don’t appropriate that culture and risk misrepresenting it”, or you might learn from your human tendency to be curious about what you are ignorant about. (Gasp! How awful would learning from our ignorance be?)

There is nothing wrong with being ignorant – absolutely nothing.  This word is being overused in a negative way by people who want it to have a strictly negative meaning. We are all ignorant, so if we call others “ignorant” out of pride or spite we risk acting like closed-minded hypocrites.  Whenever we are learning something new we need to start somewhere–we have to start off as being ignorant before we can become informed.  Where else can we start?

They do whatever it takes to avoid understanding you: Some children cover their ears to avoid listening to others; once people grow up, however, this behaviour becomes socially unacceptable. Because of this, adults might resort to other means. These means can include beginning a conversation with someone else while you are trying to talk to them, giving you a dirty look while you are trying to express yourself, changing the subject, or simply walking away to do something else.

Sometimes they will also use noise to block out information that others are trying to give to them. If there have been people in your life who tend to do this, you know that you feel trapped in their presence. If you try to sincerely express your own feelings to them, you can’t get a word in edgewise before they begin to shout at you angrily, roar with laughter, or burst into tears. They sabotage your freedom for the sake of their own.

If these things only last a short while, and later this person shows some willingness to communicate with you to find the truth, this may have not been closed-mindedness in the first place. Maybe this person was just confused or scared. Maybe he or she is now seeking forgiveness and trying to help you to understand what you did that upset them so that you know what you need to be forgiven for. However, if this person never shows any intention to understand you, or helping you to understand them, then this person is choosing to remain closed-minded.

They don’t believe in potential, and the need to change: How often have you heard people say, “You/I don’t need to change anything about your/myself”, “I am perfect just the way I am”, or “you are perfect just the way you are” as if these are complements? This philosophy is rooted in subjectivism, also known as relativism. I spoke about relativism in a blog post called “Smallfoot – Objectivism vs. Subjectivism”. Whenever people say these things, I believe that they want to hold onto their own opinions about you, and themselves whether these opinions are good, bad, true, or false. I know for a fact that I need to change – I need to get better at seeing the good in other people, and to develop my own potential to see other’s potentials. I would hope that others would want to see potential in me to become a better person than I am now — I am not “perfect just the way I am”. If they don’t believe in the need to change their own false perceptions of me, or my own false presuppositions of them, then they are acting like closed-minded relativists. I want to see potential in people who don’t believe in potential. Is that a bad thing?

(Part 2)