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Changing one's mind is a part of growing

Nov. 23, 2012 @ 09:07 AM

The older I become, the more I question the plethora of ideas and beliefs I blandly (or should I say “blindly”) accepted from authority figures like parents, teachers, ministers and especially politicians over the years. I was a young man when the phrase “question anyone over 30” was popular.  Then, almost before I knew it, I was in my 30s. Now, I’m twice that and more!

I love to learn new things. When given various points of view, it has always seemed natural for me to consider the alternatives. When I held an opinion that someone whom I respected proved ill-conceived, I never found it particularly loathsome to change my mind. I never thought of that as flip-flopping; I thought of it as “growing.”

My sister once said to me, “You’re not the same person I knew a few years ago.” I replied, “I certainly hope not!” She was referring to my political views, I think. Along with most of my family, I was a Republican, until I voted for President Clinton for his second term. I liked his policies. I morphed easily and comfortably into a Democrat, and I have remained so.

Perhaps my sister was referring to my religious views. Although I had been a conservative Baptist for most of my life, I easily and comfortably morphed into a liberal. It makes no difference which she meant, however, because spiritually and politically, I am a happy liberal; I am certainly not the same person she knew a few years ago.    

How in the world can an extreme change like this come about? Rather easily, I can say now as I look backward over my lifetime. At various points along the way, (to use a phrase I literally detest) I stopped drinking other people’s “Kool-Aid” and started mixing my own brew!

I discovered that some of my previously held religious beliefs were in point of fact untenable. One example will suffice. How could I continue to believe the Bible is “inerrant,” when any reasonably sensible Bible student (and particularly ministers) knows the Bible contains clearly identifiable inconsistencies and mistakes.

Politically, I discovered, somewhere along the way, that I was not anti-women’s rights, not opposed to equal pay for equal work, and for civil rights for all Americans of all races, creeds and genders.

That I really do believe in an America “of the people, by the people, and for the people,” and that I do believe in an America where every person is, or certainly should be, equal in the eyes of the law.

I became a bit more cynical, too, when I realized it was not prudent to believe everything I read in the newspapers, or heard on the radio, or watched on the television. I’ve learned you can scarcely believe anything a professional politician says! I’ve learned to defend my beliefs; to be proud of who I am and never retreat, but always grow and change; and every day strive to be a better person than I was yesterday.

Milt Hankins of Ashland, Ky., is a retired minister, theologian and freelance writer.

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