In my early teens, I considered numerous careers including air hostess, interior decorator, lawyer, physiotherapist, doctor and journalist. Every month or so I entertained some exciting, new enterprise; my father responding that “I didn’t know what I wanted and was always changing my mind”.
His attitude was bemused not berating, yet, there seemed an implicit negativity, even disparaging criticism, about constantly changing my mind.
It is as if adhering to one’s assumptions and beliefs is a symbol of strength; unable to countenance any fallibility, with a change of mind perceived as weak, soft and hyper- sensitive. Backing down and admitting wrong is simply untenable; being boorishly intransigent far more personally satisfying
In these intolerant times for opposing points of view and increasing street protests about climate change, government corruption, prohibitive laws and various injustices in Australia, Britain, America, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Iraq and Ecuador, among others, there seems a stubborn resistance to changing one’s mind.
Certainly in late adolescence, I voiced my political perspective very adamantly, oft refusing to acknowledge any credibility for contrary arguments. Imbued with youthful, arrogant, self-righteousness, I listened, but dismissed others with disdain. By then, I didn’t like changing my mind, an irony my father didn’t miss in our occasional, conflicted conversations.
Later, with a more humble maturity impacting my intellectual bravado, I reappraised why changing my mind seemed so undesirable, realising I needed to not just listen, but really “hear” and think about what others opined, learning to respect a diversity of thought.
Abandoning my antipathy to disagreement, I discovered new, enriching horizons of interest, challenge and stimulation, understanding that changing my mind could indeed be positive when new facts, information and evidence were rationally and logically presented.
Indeed, this is the premise of our courts, with the 1957 Hollywood movie “Twelve Angry Men” portraying how one man changed the minds of eleven other jurors, with painstaking persistence. It also underpins Western politics, with candidates aspiring to change the mind of voters to secure election victory.
As 18th century philosopher Edmund Burke stated: “We must all obey that great law of change. It is the most powerful law of nature,” while Romans 12:2 advises “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind…”
With contempt and resentment dominating social debate about many contentious issues, it seems significant to believe in changing one’s mind, celebrating a different perspective with a faith to be cherished, not feared.