Broad Mindedness


By Mattie Lennon.

              ” The superior man is broadminded but not partisan:
the inferior man is partisan but not broadminded.” ( Confucius)


The term “broadmindedness” is used to describe the attitude of everyone from those who advocate wholesale abortion to those who think that wife-swapping should be made compulsory to the mindset of a Dublin Bus driver who agrees with Seamus Brennan. But it is the ability to see the other person’s point-of-view and is therefore considered a virtue. And while I do not fully agree that “….our virtues are only vices in disguise,” I have perceived that there is a price to be paid for broad-mindedness, compared to such virtues as honesty, tolerance and chastity. (By the way, who was it said that chastity is no more a virtue than malnutrition?)


I mean, if you were to give me a belt in the mouth and I could perfectly see the reason, as perceived by you, I’d be unlikely to take retaliatory action. If you claimed inability to pay money owed to me and I had what it takes to fully empathize with your penury, I wouldn’t get a penny. It is a noble and God-like thing to refrain from criticizing your brother until you have walked a mile in his moccasins. It could, however, leave you with a shoe on your own foot.


If one of your bosses adopts a zero-tolerance approach and you can see his point of view so well that you agree with him, then you’re banjaxed. Didn’t Patrick Kavanagh say, when warning against preaching too near the gates of Hell: “After a while in Hell, you begin ……….. point of view.”


It could be argued that broadmindedness is a lack of conviction in one’s own opinions. Irish writer, Anthony Cronin said: ” My own self-doubt even applies to opinions, not to say beliefs. No sooner do I start to form an opinion about almost anything than I begin to wonder about the factors in my psychology which are influencing it’s formation. And where personal differences are concerned, I am crippled by an ability to see the other person’s point of view”.

Who would have thought that the man who, backs horses, qualified as a Barrister and wrote Charlie Haughey’s speeches would suffer from; “…..the curse of a too-ready faculty for seeing the opposite side of the case”.

There is very often nothing wrong with compromise — that is, giving up part of a claim. But being so understanding of your opponent that you forfeit all claims is a shortcut to the Workhouse. For whatever reason, I’m not particularly good at seeing the other fellow’s viewpoint. And when I do see it, I tend to do all in my power to conceal any signs of my understanding to him.


Sometimes I say, “Thank God I’m a narrow-minded bastard.”


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