Bring an “Open Mind”

My eldest child started high school this year. I thought the amount of papers she brought home before was intense, but we’ve reached new levels! One of the pages from her Social Studies class caught my attention. It was a list of what the children need to bring to class – bring pencils, bring a 1-inch binder, bring highlighters, bring an open mind. Wait. What? Bring “an open mind?” As I was trying to make a list for shopping at Staples, this item caught me in my tracks.

I started to debate with myself. Is it possible to really instruct someone to “bring an open mind” as you instruct them to bring # 2 pencils to class? What if we really could just say to someone, “When you come and see me, bring your open mind along”? What a wonderful concept!
I was at a dinner this weekend and there was a debate raging over the state of our culture and economy. One man was saying there simply isn’t enough kindness and compassion anymore, and another was arguing that “all is well just as it is.” The first person said to the second, “Stop listening with your head and start listening with your heart.” The second man just sat there fuming and went into a rant about something else he disagreed with.

Again, an instruction – just start doing something differently. Use your heart, not your head. As I watched the exchange, I found myself thinking, “He can’t.” He simply can’t change his way of acting. My years of Myers-Briggs experience kicked in and I started to remember how some of us are “T’s” on the scale (Thinkers) while others of us are “F’s” (Feelers). This means that some of us go into our heads on a regular basis, while others trust their heart and gut to tell them what to do. I don’t believe that either is right or wrong, it simply is.

So, all of this said, can we tell someone – ask them, implore them, beg them – to be a different person simply by making the request? I think not. Will the child appear to be open-minded in the class to get a good grade? Sure. Will the second person in the fight I observed stop and try to look as if he is consulting with his heart? Maybe. But will either of them be different people?

I don’t believe we can ask another person to change because we believe they need to be different. Change comes from within. We have to want to be different. We have to believe there is a better way that will serve us – and maybe even the people around us – in a more effective manner. Think about the time and energy we waste trying to change those people out there – trying to get them to see the light and behave differently. What if that energy was turned inward and we spent the time figuring out what kind of person we want to be?

Some would say this is an idealistic notion. That it isn’t possible to ask each person to take responsibility and stop putting their emphasis on trying to change others. I believe it’s possible, and this week I am going to make it a point not to criticize, not to demand something else from someone who might not be able to give it.