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.
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?