How to break religious attitudes and learn from anyone
Open-minded: Is it useful or dangerous?
Religious attitudes: those are the critical, judgmental, and close-minded attitude. Each person has belief and values that they have created over the years, this can be a good principle, yet sometimes that caused them to close their mind to learn from anyone. They limit their learning only from those with the same belief and perspective.
The lessons for the “naives”
Lessons from Eckhart Tolle
Recently I listened a lot from Eckhart Tolle on Oprah book club, a discussion on his recent book, A New Earth. He is from a very different belief than I am, especially in our concept about God and consciousness. He believes more on consciousness rather than God. Those are the values that I won’t compromise, yet I am still able to learn a lot from him. Many of his teachings are eye-openers, lots of “Aha” moments in many of his insights. The last article I shared is one of them; it is inspired by his quote on uncertainty and possibilities.
I am so excited that I wanted to share these insights. I’m recommending the Podcast to one of my Christian friends. He is working in US right now, and it’s not a surprise that he has known about this podcast from Eckhart and Oprah. I didn’t realize that when I was recommending the podcast to him. He was replying me with some interesting video…
Lessons from critic’s video
Out of concern, he shared with me a video on YouTube. The video shared Christian comments and review on the book and the discussion between Oprah and Eckhart. Not only it criticizes Eckhart, it also criticizes Oprah. It quoted many of the Bible verses of how wrong Oprah is, how misleading Eckhart is, and also the cult, church, belief or religion that Oprah is establishing and promoting.
I have some points that I agree with the video, some of the points Oprah brought is not correct from my understanding. However, the video disappointed me very much in how religious people often very good when it comes to judging and criticizing. They may want to scare people not to watch and being dragged, but I don’t find that judging is effective enough. If people’s life are changed because of the insights, judging and criticizing them will not benefit them.
That video does make me thinking. There lies not only benefit, but also danger in being open-minded. Some people may naively believe all the things that comes into their life, while others guard their mind too much from any knowledge that “seems” to be against their own belief. That is the religious attitude too many people is in.
This article will share with you my insights on the matter, how to break the religious attitude, being a learner while learning not to be misled. I will not judge other people’s religion or belief. Instead I will take from the point of view of the people with the same religious view as me, the Christians.
Hope that whatever religious view you have, you still can learn from this article. I am going to share about how to balance between being open-minded and standing firm on what you belief. Please let me know when you have input in the comments as well.
Who are the “naives”?
Are they the open-minded? Mmm, not necessarily. It’s quite a thin line between naive and teachable. The difference is what I learn from John C. Maxwell in his book, Winning with People.
Different from what many people are saying about being naive, John Maxwell attributed the attitude of learning from anyone into being teachable. That is what he shared in his Learning Principle, that each person we meet has the potential to teach us something.
Then, who are the “naives”?
John Maxwell called it naive if you believe that one person can teach them everything. It talks more about the time when you stop learning and satisfied with what you have known so far. It talks more about the time when you make any other human as an idol for their teaching or wisdom.
I read some comments on iTunes for the Oprah-Eckhart podcast episodes. A lot of them are satisfied with the videos and the discussions. However, some are not, some are negatives. They protested Oprah and asked her to talk less. They did not want to learn from her, and they just wanted to listen more from Eckhart.
It might seem exaggerating, but I have some concerns that people start idolizing Eckhart Tolle. Despite of all the great things we can learn from Eckhart, he is still human with all the limitations. I hoped that people will not take him as a false idol that people put into their life.
In fact, those comments made me questioning those readers whether they are really following the book? The book teaches how to be aware of your ego and not following it. Aren’t those comments show more of their ego, the desire to get more and more from Eckhart?
Lesson #1: Be teachable, learn from everyone, but do not expect to learn everything from one person.
Influence comes with criticism
I have noticed that many speakers that have changed people’s lives get criticized. Joyce Meyer is criticized for being blessed and rich, Joel Osteen for the many messages on success and prosperity, and the last one that I got to know from the video is Oprah for building her own cult.
The higher you are; the harder the wind and the pressure you are in. That’s also a challenge of a leader and influencer. One thing we need to learn, nobody is perfect! I don’t think that anyone I mentioned above is perfect. None of them can teach us everything, and none of them are perfect in their teaching. Each of them has perspective we all can learn from.
They have gone through their process and they have taken many steps ahead of us. They have touched and inspired people’s lives with their calling. Those are the positives that we all can look into. People have nature on looking into the negatives. That might be the reason why they become so critical.
Lesson #2: Instead of looking into the negatives, learn from the positives.
The contextual truth
As a Christian, I’m often taught to learn from the Bible contextually. It’s not right to take only one verse out of the Bible, interpreting it without understanding the context and the circumstances the author is in.
Sadly, the same people who taught me about context, also the same people who criticize many of the speakers above when it comes on their teachings. They pick one statement or message, and then they start judging and criticizing. They pick one mistake and they despised the person. Instead of understanding their full knowledge, heart, belief, and purpose why they do that.
Contextual truth for an ostrich
You can learn from ostrich. Ostrich are laying their head and neck flat on the ground when they sense dangers. Their body are not covered by anything, and we think that it’s a stupid action. Yet, if you are willing to look at another side, here is what Wikipedia shared…
When lying down and hiding from predators, the birds lay their head and neck flat on the ground, making them appear as a mound of earth from a distance. This even works for the males, as they hold their wings and tail low so that the heat haze of the hot, dry air that often occurs in their habitat aids in making them appear as a nondescript dark lump.
~Ostrich @ Wikipedia
They are a very smart creature instead. They do it based on their knowledge on their predators, weathers and geographical area they live in. Read this article if you wanted to know more about the lessons from disagreement.
What the ostrich do is not true in our sense, but contextually, it is truth and helpful for it to survive. Yes, it is a very thin difference between compromising and contextualizing truth. If you want to both learn and reach people with different beliefs, we need to build bridges. It is what I call as contextualizing. How can we contextualize without compromise? Understand the context why people do what they do.
Contextual truth in abortion case
I’ll try to give another example. Let’s say a person committed an abortion. The truth: abortion is wrong. Yet people can somehow justify their action. You can simply judge and criticize them, but you won’t learn anything and you won’t be able to reach and help them.
The secret is that you need to get to know her struggle, embarrassment, dilemma, financial and family situation. Once you understand the context, you will learn all the reasons that hurt her and made her taking those actions. We should not compromise or legalized abortion, even more on promoting it. But, understanding the contextual truth, you will learn a lot more things. We can learn more the need and motivation of people, the psychology of people, and how we can take care of the similar people we care about.
Similar to all the teaching above, those are contextual truth, their interpretation of the truth. All of them are based on their belief, talent, and experiences. It is not necessarily explain the whole truth, but there are undeniably certain values they give to people. That’s the reason why many people are listening to them. That is a perspective that you can learn from them.
Lesson #3: Take lessons from the contextual truth, that’s the truth in action, and from them you will learn the deeper truth about the truth.
Broaden your life
Recently I went with a friend to a bookstore. She shared her doubt on her career and personal life, so I suggested a book from Joel Osteen, Becoming a Better You. Unfortunately, she denied reading the book. Even worse, the reason is simply because her friends told her so. Her Christian friends told her before that it is bad to learn from Joel Osteen, his teaching is not right, he is too prosperity minded, and so on.
Challenge your belief
Many times, religious people, including myself, are too afraid that their beliefs are challenged. If you believe that your truth is the truth, then you should not be afraid that it is being challenged.
In the opposite end, insecure people are those who are getting very defensive on what they believe. They take conclusion too early, and judging everything as wrong and irrelevant to what they believe. I hope that religion does not become a comfort zone for you.
Use other people’s belief
Another Christian friend of mine, Adrian, shared how he also enjoyed reading non-Christian books. He embraces the knowledge and the wisdom that non-Christian shares. He enjoyed reading them because he finds that non-Christian dug a lot deeper wisdom than the Christians. Instead of getting defensive, he learned from their wisdom. More than that, he even more affirmed with what he religiously believed. From them, he is much more amazed on how God created the world, His plan for salvation of human being and everything. It is exactly what the message I am trying to share with you, learning and using from another person’s belief.
Lesson #4: Broaden your life and learn from people with different belief from you.
Take an active approach
I had an article before, sharing about the ten symptoms when you live a vision beyond yourself. That article speaks about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and living a life beyond your individual need.
Instead of getting defensive with your belief, live a life of purpose! It is living a life to fulfill the need for self-actualization and self-transcendence.
Self-actualizing people are democratic in the deepest possible sense. They are friendly towards everyone regardless of class, education, political beliefs, race, or colour... They are humble in the sense of being aware of how little they know in comparison with what could be known and what is known by others. They are ready and willing to learn from anyone. They respect everyone as a potential contributor to their knowledge, merely because everyone is a human being.
~Maslow’s hierarchy of needs @ Wikipedia
That is also what Dr. Henry Cloud shared in his book, Changes That Heal. He calls the judgmental attitude as having a black-and-white thinking, and here is more explanation from him regarding those people…
They are thinking like an eleven-year-old. They are unable to think in terms of gray; there are no tough moral dilemmas. Everything is simple; if the rules say it; do it… They were so occupied with the rules and right and wrong that they could not get to wisdom, truth, and love.
~Dr. Henry Cloud (Changes That Heal)
Active approach means that you are not waiting, but you are looking and hungry for wisdom. You know that what you know is not enough and you need to learn more. You are embracing what is different from you have known so far. You take it deeper than only what appears on the surface. You take what is good and letting go what is not. And the most important thing, you start building your principle rather than rules.
What is your deepest desire in your life? Do you dare to challenge them and make sure that it is what you really want? Do you dare to learn things and knowledge that will turn your values upside down and change when it is necessary?
Lesson #5: Live an active life of purpose. You will not be bogged down by rules, and you will start living by principles
The trap of being open-minded
It’s hard to give an award on humility. If you announce the winner, called her on the stage, she will not be qualified for the award once she stepped up to the stage.
Similar to being open-minded, once you start criticizing the people with close-minded, you started being judging and critical. It’s just like my natural tendency towards people with close-minded people. I don’t see their life fruitful, yet they have a hard time changing.
This is something we all need to learn as well. Being an open-minded person does not mean that we start feeling superior than those who are more close-minded. We need to stop judging them and learn to see things from their perspective as well. There are some contextual truths that we can learn from them as well.
Open-minded are very useful on building bridges and relationship, but eventually you will also need to learn to stand firm on your principles and move forward. If you have different perspective on either sides, or disagreement with this article, please let me know in the comments. Let’s learn from each other!
My message for you: live out your principles and keep on learning!
For your success,
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