In Defense of Changing Your Mind
It's okay to admit you were wrong
Another day, another article! In the last post, I wrote about my experience going from left-leaning ideology to more conservative viewpoints. I received a few comments; some nonconstructive (ex., “This is hot garbage”) and others presenting some genuinely thought-provoking points. Of course, my gut reaction is to defend myself against all the criticism; but instead, I thought it might be interesting and perhaps beneficial to the reader if I used these comments for further exposition of how I came to look at things conservatively. I know it is close to the heart of Taboo Topic that it is okay to have and express controversial opinions—but what I want to add here is that it is also okay to change your mind!
The comment that got me thinking the most about this was the following:
So you went from blindly believing one thing to blindly believing another.
... but THIS time it's the truth for really-reals, amirite?
Let’s start with the part I disagree with first. I wrote about how initially I believed in conservatism, because that was what my parents taught me; but as I grew older and gathered more information in thinking for myself, I began to agree more with liberal ideology. And then, as I was confronted with even more opportunity for critical thought—combined with being open to being wrong—I found that conservatism actually does make more sense to me. To summarize, even my past beliefs that I now consider wrong were the result of deep thought.
And to this point, the second half of this comment actually brings up quite an astute point about critical thinking. Yes, I do currently think that I have the “right” perspective on things; but I thought the same thing when I was leaning liberal, and it is quite possible the exact same thing could happen again, in reverse. I think the point I want to illustrate here is that even that would be okay. It is okay if you find out later that you got your facts (or your interpretation of them) wrong; even if you have to backtrack on your backtracking, all you can speak on is what you know at the current moment. What matters is being open to being wrong, and updating your mindset accordingly!
This leads me into why I actually believe conservatism will be right for me in the long term: because the mindset behind it goes beyond politics, and has brought me peace in my relationships and beyond; that mindset, of course, being willingning to believe that my feelings about a situation may not correlate with the actual facts. Now, believe me—as an INFP, I understand exactly how hard this is to comprehend. Compassion, validation of experiences, and listening to others are things I really value, and why I was drawn to the tenets of liberalism in the first place. I don’t like the idea of having to give people the benefit of the doubt; but I have found that it has brought me so much more equilibrium than giving free rein to the part of me that jumps to being offended on my own (or someone else’s) behalf.
I had a friend once tell me, “assumptions will ruin your life,” and I have found that to be true in so many areas. When I make assumptions about people and their motives, I experience much more relational turbulence and hurt feelings than when I am able to focus on the facts—what did they actually say? And did they actually mean that the way I took it? When I leave room for the idea that I am hurting my own feelings in my assumptions, I suddenly have more freedom to not be offended.
Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense. (Proverbs 19:11)
Conservatism is very similar, in that it encourages taking the time to observe the facts of an issue before leaning into feelings about it. For example, I spoke in my last article about the media coverage of George Floyd’s death, and a few comments asserted that I believed he deserved what happened to him. What I said was that the media represented the situation dishonestly—speaking as though he were a hero, manipulating the emotions of the audience and spurring them to action for political gain. I think it is powerful to believe that Floyd was not innocent, and yet still did not deserve what happened to him; but at that time, this perspective offended me. However, once I was willing to look past this, I slowly began to realize that perhaps I was not offended for good reason, and that perhaps the solution was not in making other people stop saying things that would offend me. Perhaps the solution was actually to stop taking offense.
There are other applications here that go beyond political perspectives. I can’t tell you how many times I have taken something personally that my husband has said to me, only to find out after further discussion that he didn’t mean it that way at all. When I am able to stop myself, realize I am making an assumption, and give him the benefit of the doubt before asking for clarification, there is much more peace internally, and our relationship suffers one less bit of turbulence. Same thing can be said about my parents — Now that I don’t vehemently disagree with my parents politically, both parties speak more freely with each other; however, it’s that just we share the same opinions. They still make statements I disagree with sometimes, but now, instead of assuming there is bigotry or close-mindedness behind it, we can have a productive discussion that often leads us to realizing we think a lot more similarly than we might have suspected. Seeing the fruit in this way of thinking, both politically and relational, is why I believe I will stick with it.
Now, I want to mention here that if I actually did say that I thought Floyd deserved to die, I would not blame someone for taking offense to it. This would be justified given the facts, because I would have meant it in an offensive way. But if we are going off of the face value of what I said about Floyd in the last article, the offense comes from dangerous assumptions that serve to drive wedges between us and other people. And this is not limited to liberals—conservatives do plenty of this. We are all so divided, and few people are willing to look past their assumptions and truly get to the bottom of what someone means.
I think we could all benefit from truly listening to each other, and being open to being wrong. You don’t have to be afraid of the idea that there is a better point of view than the one you currently have, or that perhaps neither one is particularly “right” or “wrong.” If you are brave enough to face your feelings and overlook an offense, you just might find peace on the other side!