The Virtue of Open-Mindedness
Open-mindedness is one of the essentials of recovery, with honesty and willingness part of the three indispensable principles of sobriety.
Traditionally considered an intellectual or cognitive virtue in that it governs the acquisition of knowledge and understanding, open-mindedness is the key to Step 2, where we abandon our biases and prejudices and become receptive to a Power that can transform us.
Its practice in AA is directed to the spiritual life and the search for spiritual truth, seen ultimately as the foundation of all truth.
Step 2 highlights its association with the virtue of humility, without which open-mindedness can easily devolve into its opposite.
[Image: Richmond Walker, early Boston AA member and author of “Twenty-Four Hours a Day.” See review of his book in Ray’s Book Reviews.]
“Mine was exactly the kind of deep-seated block we so often see today in new people who say they are atheistic or agnostic. Their will to disbelieve is so powerful that apparently they prefer a date with the undertaker to an open-minded and experimental quest for God.” — Bill W., in ABSI
“Faced with alcoholic destruction, we soon became as open-minded on spiritual matters as we had tried to be on other questions. In this respect alcohol was a great persuader. It finally beat us into a state of reasonableness.” – Big Book
“True humility and an open mind can leads us to faith, and every AA meeting is an assurance that God will restore us to sanity if we rightly relate ourselves to Him.” – 12&12
“There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance —that principle is contempt prior to investigation.” – Herbert Spencer*
“Let the mind be enlarged . . . to the grandeur of the mysteries, and not the mysteries contracted to the narrowness of the mind.” – Francis Bacon
“If someone is able to show me that what I think or do is not right, I will happily change, for I seek the truth, by which no one was ever truly harmed. It is the person who continues in his self-deception and ignorance who is harmed.”
– Marcus Aurelius
“An open mind is not an end in itself but a means to the end of finding truth.”
– Peter Kreeft
“To think that there is no truth or that no action is better than any other is not to be open-minded, but to abandon any attempt at rational discrimination. It is to shut down reason, rather than to pursue free inquiry.” – Montague Brown
“I shall adopt new views as fast as they shall appear to be true views.”
– Abraham Lincoln
“Merely having an open mind is nothing; the object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid." – G.K. Chesterton
“Travel is fatal to bigotry, prejudice, and narrow-mindedness.” – Mark Twain
“What does a man know about England who only knows England?” – Rudyard Kipling
“If I feed and clothe my neighbor or enemy, but ignore, distort, or otherwise fail to ‘take seriously’ his deeply held beliefs, then surely I fail to embody the kind of love that Jesus commands. This suggests . . . that there are in fact distinctively Christian reasons to be open-minded.” – Jason Baehr
“If a man will begin with certainties, he shall end in doubts; but if he will be content to begin with doubts, he shall end in certainties.” – Francis Bacon
“It is a narrow mind which cannot look at a subject from various points of view.” – George Eliot
“The question is not what you look at, but what you see.” – Henry David Thoreau
“’Dogs and cats should always be brought up together,’ said someone, ‘it broadens their minds so.’ . . .” – C.S. Lewis
"If I go to meetings with a mind tightly closed, ready to criticize what I hear, it is as though I were to hold a teaspoon under Niagara Falls in an effort to get water for my thirst." – One Day at a Time in Al-Anon
"Sometimes, when the going gets especially hard, we're tempted to follow the path of least resistance and live by our old ideas again. We forget that our old ideas were killing us. To live a new way of life, we need to open our minds to new ideas." ? Just for Today: Daily Meditations for Recovering Addicts
“Eager to break 'old taboos' and debunk 'religious myths,' we opened our minds to fashionable ideas and trendy rationalizations we found personally 'liberating,' and we closed our minds to God.” – PTP
“In asking us to open our minds to the spiritual experience of other alcoholics, Step 2 is asking us to admit to the possibility that we know less than we suppose, and that, perhaps, our ideas about God don’t necessarily correspond to reality.” – PTP
*According to Big Book; also attributed to William Paley
– For more PTP passages on open-mindedness, see pp. 26, 29, 134–136.
For more BB and 12&12 passages, click on www.164andmore.com and
search "open." See also entries in As Bill Sees It.
1. "Open-mindedness," chapter by Jason Baehr in Being Good: Christian Virtues for
Everyday Life, Michael W. Austin and R. Douglas Geivett, Editors
For other posts on the virtues and the disciplines, please click on Practice These.