Sunday, January 29, 2017

Attributes that Should Accompany Broadmindedness©

"He mistakes the stretching of his conscience for the broadening of his mind."
--Vance Havner

Yesterday I wrote about the neglected meanings of the word "discrimination." Today’s essay is a companion piece about a different phenomenon–the almost unthinking acceptance of the positive values given to the word broadminded and the neglect of its dangers and associated attributes which should accompany it in order to avoid its negative effects. The thoughts are not mine, however. Today this column is relinquished for reproduction of a short but thoughtful essay by a man whose intelligence, wisdom, and articulateness I greatly admire and respect–Richard L. Evans, the voice of radio’s “Spoken Word,” for forty years.

“Broadmindedness” is a word that has much meaning and much to commend it. But “the question is,” said Alice in Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass, “the question is whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
We sometimes let words run away with us. If, for example, a stream is allowed to run too “broadly” it may dissipate itself in devious shallow courses instead of running full and effectively.  It is possible also for a person to become so “broad” that there is shallowness, that nothing stays fixed, that the mind is wide open for every breeze to blow through
It is good to be broad in understanding, but there is also a need for depth. It is good to avoid narrowness, prejudice, too have an open mind, but not so open that it doesn’t discriminate, not so open that it spreads out all over without convictions or principles or judgment or depth or definition. “Broad” is only one dimension. There are others equally essential.  Concerning an obsession with one dimension, Emily Dickinson said: “He preached upon ‘breadth’ till it argued him narrow, / The broad are too broad to define.”
One could conceivably become so indiscriminatingly [sic] “broad” that there would be no bounds to his thinking, no lines he wouldn’t cross, no principles he would be governed by, no direction he wouldn’t go. If a navigator were so “broad” as to ignore the safe channel, he would likely be wrecked.  If a pilot were so “broad” as to fail to follow the beam, he would hazard his own life and other lives also. To broadness must be added judgment, depth, definition and direction–broadness that is straight and true, broadness that includes principles and standards and character and competence.
This would be our appeal to young people: Don’t let a false and shallow kind of “broadmindeness” rule your lives or determine your decisions. Never let yourselves be run by a word without looking at its several sides. Broadmindedness can have much virtue, much strength, much understanding–but broadness without balance, broadness without standards, broadness without judgment, without moral qualities and character simply isn’t safe. We should never become so “broad” that principles are set aside.(1)

Let’s think together again, soon.


1.  Richard L. Evans, Thoughts for One Hundred Days, Volume Five, (Salt Lake City: Publishers Press, 1972), pp. 176-77.

No comments:

Post a Comment