I love it when I receive a big time mental smack-down that changes the way I look at things for the better. One of these moments came during talks with an old friend of mine. At the time of our conversation I was going through a very rough patch where the results of my life decisions were not matching the good intentions I had when making them.
I was extremely upset and puzzled.
“I always try to be so open minded and accept people, but I end up getting shafted!” I explained to her in desperation.
She looked at me with a half smile and said, “See, that’s your problem. You are too open minded.”
My rebuttal instinct was activated. I was going to school her on the negatives of being closed minded despite the pitfalls of being open minded, but before I could open my mouth she continued, “That doesn’t mean you have to be closed minded.”
Now this where Mr. “19-year-old-know-it-all” Me tripped on his own feet. It’s also where it was reasserted that life is not relegated to two mutually exclusive options.
“What do I have to be then?” I asked earnestly, still wobbly from her mental jab.
“Critically minded,” she stated matter-of-factly.
Idiot me still didn’t get it (I am sure she saw it on my face), so she gave me a mental illustration in her usual calm voice.
“When you are open minded,” she began, “you allow for anyone and anything to enter your mind gate. You have no filter. Imagine the side of a curb when it rains – all the rainwater flowing toward the storm drain taking everything with it … both good and bad, indiscriminately.”
She paused to look me dead in the eye before finishing, “Life is that running rainwater and all that goes with it, and your mind is that storm drain when you are simply open minded.”
Her words hit me hard. She dismantled my very programming – everything that made me “me” for as long as I could remember. But her words, though hard, were true and I had no option but to listen.
We went on to speak at length about discernment, critical analysis and learning to respect but not necessarily accept everything thrown in our faces.
I began to understand how self-love was the essential ingredient to able to spread love to others.
I began to understand that my mind should not be (and was not) a storm drain, but rather a large field that simply needed a stronger gate and some reliable gate keepers to maintain it lush, fertile and free of rubbish.
As I shifted from being less open minded to more critically minded, it allowed me to choose my friends and life better.
The most important lesson that my friend taught me, though, is that we simply have no control over some things – no matter how much we want to believe otherwise – how we decide to use the muscle between our ears, however, is most certainly not one of those things.
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