Approaching an Open-minded Way of Life


By dylanjames, 11 March, 2013

I would argue that one of the most apt explanations of maturity is that when a person hurts you instead of hurting them back you seek to understand them. Find out where they are coming from and why they did what they did.

This will achieve two things almost instantaneously. Firstly it will stop a confrontation from boiling over into a full on fight with potentially disastrous consequences. When reacting to an attack we often lose sight of the actual issue and make it about the situation. And when tempers flare the results can end up as front page news. Secondly it will start the process of reconciliation. This is a word that we as South Africans are well aware of but it seems that we have lost the understanding of. 

By taking a step back and embracing an open-minded way of life we not only open ourselves up to learning new ways, we also limit the conflict in our lives. Both of these are massive positives. In business I have often gained from not judging an individual from the way they dress or speak. At a two day residential workshop I met one of the most awe inspiring individuals ever. I nearly turned and walked away as he not only battled to speak English clearly but also had the dress sense of a vagrant and always sported an exceptionally mischievous grin.

Only after I put aside my (as it was then) very limited world view and embraced this person as a fellow human being on the same journey around the sun could I see through the false image my close-minded eyes had painted on this man. I saw that behind the mischievous grin shone the eyes of a scholar. The vagrant dress sense had more to do with the fact that he dressed for comfort and was a world traveller. And that he battled to speak English because he had chosen French and German to add to the 8 African languages he spoke.

This was a major turning point in my life. In the following two days I had many opportunities to speak to this gentleman. He regaled me with stories. How he had walked the length of a number of countries seeking to assist others and increase his education in his youth. How his career had grown. And how, now in his twilight years, he has travelled the world, sharing his knowledge and guiding the younger generation.

A major moment in my personal development would have been missed had I not opened my heart and eyes.

Tolerance, respect, love and kindness are all linked with an open-minded way of thinking. Of course, we are all products of our own particular culture. The existence of culture is one of the ways humans survive: We pass along the wisdom we accumulate through experience from generation to generation. But if we assume that our cultural practices define the only acceptable human option, we can more easily justify the mistreatment of others. Further, we cut ourselves off from the possibility of learning from those others.


Dylan James

 Dylan is a professional event producer and facilitator