Something amazing about human beings is our ability to mature, develop, and change our stances, beliefs, and viewpoints. This aspect is due to our adaptability, reasoning capabilities, and empathy. Our brains also have a high level of neuroplasticity, changing the way we think, reason, and behave.
Many of my opinions and positions have changed over the years. Some of them have changed 180 degrees while others have simply become softened, and I have grown to see where there is room for other perspectives. I think a lot of this comes with age. Many people aren’t able to see beyond black-and-white until their 30’s. I was definitely one of those people and had a very “us vs. them” mentality throughout my 20’s.
I’m sure my opinions will continue to change as I develop as a person, gain new knowledge and understanding, and have new life experiences. Looking at an issue from afar can leave a much different impression than looking at it from up close. You can never be sure how you will view or act in a certain situation until it happens to you.
Another common trait of human beings is our ability to hold two seemingly contradictory opinions at the same time. This is typically referred to as cognitive dissonance. I have surprised myself by feeling one way about a matter and an entirely different way about a similar matter, where the same principles should have applied. It’s important that in times like these we always use the best evidence, logic, and data we have available to us and do our best to admit any biases or emotions we have that might be causing prejudice. F. Scott Fitzgerald believed, “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still be able to function.”
Yet another common human trait is to view anybody with opposing opinions as ill-willed. However, most of the time, someone with differing opinions has their thoughts and attitudes shaped by the same forces we did — upbringing and experience. And they are as sure as we that they are correct. Most of us are not even aware of why we think or behave the way we do. Social conditioning happens without the consent of the individual it shapes.
Have you found you think differently now than you used to? Are you more or less rigid in your views? More or less accepting of other people’s perspectives?