Weatherford Democrat


August 24, 2012

COLUMN: Changing our minds

— One of the most important capabilities that we have as human beings is the capacity to change our minds. When used with care, the ability to change our minds is a gift of grace that frees us from bondage and opens our lives to the future. Where would we be today if we had been locked into some of our past decisions?

It often takes great courage to change our minds, not only because of the consequences but also because of our need to be liked and accepted by those with whom we’ve previously agreed. We may not want to be labeled as “wishy-washy.” As a result, we get ourselves in deeper and make any retreat more difficult.

We need to be able to change our minds because circumstances change — the flow of life takes us to unexpected places that call for different solutions. Our knowledge also changes and expands – more light reveals better options. The needs of those in our care change, requiring different forms of love. And, thank God, people change!

Being able and willing to change our minds is also necessary because of our ignorance – none of us, individually or together, is all-knowing. As Paul, whose life was altered on the Damascus Road, reminds us, “we know in part ... we see through a glass darkly ... in our youth (when many of our assumptions are made), we think like children.” As a result, some of our decisions are based on inadequate conclusions and need to be corrected later.  

Our faith cannot help but be involved. While Jesus had much to say about commitment, allegiance, and staying true to our word, he had just as much to say about the need to sometimes change our minds. He often called his hearers to “repent,” which literally means “to change one’s mind” or “to reverse one’s former position.” It’s worth noting that his plea for a change of heart and mind was made not only to tax-collectors and sinners, but also to the Scribes and Pharisees, the most avid keepers of the Mosaic Law.

Two of Jesus’ best known parables commend people who changed their minds. The so-called prodigal son “came to himself” in the far country and turned his face toward home (Luke 15:11). And there was the story of the two sons who were asked by their father to work in his vineyard. One agreed but didn’t follow through; the other refused but later changed his mind and did what his father asked (Matt. 21:28).

Some of the Bible’s strongest warnings are reserved for those whose lives were marked by stubbornness, closed minds, and hardened hearts.

It’s a mark of strength and integrity when a leader, minister, politician, parent, teacher, child, or any other human being can say, with good reason, that they’ve changed their mind. “No one stands taller,” said William Safire, “than those willing to stand corrected.”

The late United Nation’s Secretary Dag Hammarskjöld began his book “Markings” — the notes from his journey — with a striking quote from Meister Eckhart: “Only the hand that erases can write the true thing.” An eraser is as important in life as a sharp pencil — or, in modern terms, “delete” as “save.”

Lord, soften our hearts and open our minds. Amen.

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