The Beauty of Doubt

blog image - open mindI don’t know if I am delighted or terrified that the next 17 months (in the lead up to the next presidential election) will provide such ample opportunity for me to practice keeping an open mind. It is so easy for me to become infuriated when I hear something come out of a politician’s mouth that is  hyper partisan or runs counter to my beliefs. Fortunately, on my morning walk with the dog, the universe aligned for me (again) and offered the opportunity to learn something new. One of my favorite radio shows, On Being, with Krista Tippett, had a rerun of a terrific interview with two men who found friendship by ‘achieving disagreement’. Here is the link if you want to listen But in the event you can’t commit an hour to this, the big take aways for me were that

  • doubt (believing that you may not be right, even when your position is passionately held), is good
  • changing your mind is an act of courage, not weakness
  • and compromise and integrity can go together

When you think about it, certainty is an absolute conversation (and relationship) killer.  If I have no doubt, I don’t need a relationship with you. I may want you to be available to be lectured by me so that you can come to the correct view, but I don’t really need you. There is such a strong inclination to establish these boundaries of belief, because certainty feels safe. Unfortunately, that keeps other, potentially interesting, people out. And as articulated by the Jonathan Rauch and David Blankenhorn above, we can explain their lives to them, but we never really talk to them and see it from their point of view.

I want to try something new with all of this, and I know it requires that I come to know people who see things differently than me in a more personal way first. I want to discover in them something I am currently blind to, and it will require that I seek out people who are willing to exchange eyes with me. I want this largely because I desire to discard the cloak of frustration and angst that I wear when I hear a sound bite from a candidate trying to ‘solidify their base’, or an ‘uninformed’ member of my community, sharing ‘facts’ I know to be untrue. I want this not just for me, but for our local, national and global community. Jonathan Rauch expresses this larger need well when he says, “…it is our duty as citizens to finds ways to live together…I equate that with a form of patriotism. When I see someone who won’t compromise, I see someone betraying the core purposes of our Constitution, which is to force compromise.”

A suggestion for the coming week. Think of a belief of yours that has a hint of doubt associated with it. Can you be intentional about seeking out someone who holds a view that is different than yours and inviting them to help you explore the topic together? What do you have to lose? I have such a long list of doubts, I could probably start tomorrow with this never get to the end of my list. But I am going to try and see what happens. I hope you join me.

(With that said, Ted Cruz will not be invited over for dinner any time soon…I think I need to start with something a bit easier and with greater chance of success)

One thought on “The Beauty of Doubt

  1. Thank you for the perspective. If only our politicians (on both sides!) adhered to the three bullets you listed and would take your perspective on being open, we wouldn’t have to steel ourselves for the ugliness of the coming months.

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