To learn or to be right

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but be a new and different person with a fresh newness in all you do and think. Then you will learn from your own experience how his ways will really satisfy you.

Rom 12:2

How do you enter a communication, especially one with the potential for disagreement?

There are two ways to approach this: you expect and desire to learn something new, to have your own view adjusted so it can approximate truth, or you know that you are right, know truth already, and need to both defend it and help the other see it.

This is true no matter what the topic of a discussion is. But you can imagine that it is exceptionally true for topics like faith and worldview, as they touch the core of our being.

It is no wonder that our Christian faith is such a topic. This is portrayed right in the beginning:

When offered a choice to eat from any tree in the garden including the tree of life, but not to partake from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, we made the wrong choice.

Living from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil instills in us the capability of discernment and discrimination, but also the necessity to assign value to things. All duality does that, and it seems to be a necessary feature of consciousness.

I have said before that the problem is not so much duality, but the ruler we use: to measure things along the dimension of good and evil and similar dichotomies like right and wrong.

Living from the tree of life does allow to discriminate too, namely along the dimension whether something brings life.

We used to live, and mostly still do, from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Jesus at the cross and in his resurrection restored access to the tree of life for us, and we can live from that vantage point now.

But what does this have to do with our topic?

First, let me give those two mindsets a name to have a shortcut when talking about this–yes, I will discriminate and assign value to two ways of approaching disagreement and internal conflict, but I will try to do so from a vantage point of life, not right or wrong.

A mindset of learning is called open, while somebody that wants to be and knows to be right from the beginning has a so-called closed mindset. This is not used to say that closed is evil and open is good. The metaphors here are: open or closed to learn new things that challenges our believes.

Both approaches to life, stemming from the two trees, allow for both an open and a closed mindset. But you can imagine that discriminating along the dimension of right and wrong will have a harder time to adjust than looking at situations with the question: what would bring life here.

There are two ways of learning: absorbing and adjusting.

We absorb when we integrate new stuff into the containers we already have for knowledge. We adjust if new stuff makes it necessary to revise our containers for the new to fit.

An inner conflict occurs when there seems to be a need to adjust, that is, a new thing does not fit with my existing containers.

We can then react with two strategies:

We can interpret the new in a way that fits our categories, and if that does not work, just dismiss it. Much new revelation in faith has been dismissed as heresy for a while before becoming accepted and at times even mainstream.

We can adjust our containers such that the new fits. Here, many things have been too readily adopted and had to be corrected later.

We see that in politics. There are two opposing forces called conservatism and progressivism. The rather closed mindset of conservatism that is prone to keep things as they are is balanced by progressivism that wants to change things for the better no matter what. This balance is crucial. Mere conservatism strangles any growth, while mere progressivism leads into chaos.

Coming back to the two trees and their approaches to life:

As history shows, living from the tree of knowledge of good and evil tends to instill a closed mindset and a conservative worldview.

Let’s look at the tree of life: does it equal with progressivism and an open mindset? Well, maybe an open mindset, but not necessarily with progressivism.

Asking the question what brings life does not mean change and subjective situational truth at all cost. Jesus has given us guidelines and fixed points and therefore some conservatism where it brings life.

Progressivism alone can also lead to a very closed mindset with the idea that only change is valuable.

In the eyes of people that live from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, and especially in the eyes of those that live with a closed mindset, whether conservative or progressive, people with an open mindset always seem to be unreliable, belong to the other camp (the one that is wrong), and cannot be counted upon.

We could therefore say that it is not the extremes that have an open mindset, not the ideologies, not the -isms, not doctrine or a belief system. It is those that at any time search life.

I have Openness to Experience exceptionally high at the 96% percentile. Openness to experience is the trait in the personality test called big 5 that measures this open mindset. It consists of two dimensions:

  • Intellect: measure of interest in abstract ideas (97)
  • Openness: mainly a synonym of creativity (84)

What does my measure mean? Out of a 100 people, 95 have a more closed mindset than me. That is, only 4 have a more open mindset than me.

I have lived so many years from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and counter my own personality and have, against my own grain, just told the stories one-dimensionally: discriminating between right and wrong.

What makes it worse for me: in my heart, I knew better.

He said, “You have been given a teachable heart to perceive the secret, hidden mysteries of God’s kingdom realm. But to those who don’t have a listening heart, my words are merely stories. Even though they have eyes, they are blind to the true meaning of what I say, and even though they listen, they won’t receive full revelation.”

Luke 8:10 TPT