How To Have an Open Mind Not an Empty Head

Dwight Longenecker
6 min readSep 20, 2019

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I was brought up in a tribe. My tribe was Evangelical, Fundamentalist Christian. You could be happy in that tribe…

…As long as you stayed in the tribe. As long as you did not question the tribe. As long as you obeyed the tribe’s rules.

Our tribe, like every tribe, functioned according to certain unwritten, group think dynamics. We signed up to the scriptures of the tribe and the creed of the tribe. We kept the dress code. We not only obeyed the rules, we judged and excluded the mavericks who broke the rules.

The tribe was strengthened by a continued awareness of threat. To bolster support we identified an “enemy” and went on the attack. We built our fortress and took pot shots over the battlements. We never won the war because it wasn’t about the war. It was about the identity of the tribe.

We felt strong when we identified the weakness of the enemy. We felt good by pointing out how others were bad. We put ourselves up by putting others down. We were driven by the sour fuel of resentment.

That was my tribe. It functioned like every other tribe. My tribe was religious. Yours might be political, sexual, ideological…whatever.

Tribes are like that.

Our tribes are defined by our enemy. We are defined by our protest. We are defined by what we are against more than what we are for.

An English Gentleman

Then I came across an aphorism by a gentle Englishman. I had wound up at Oxford to study theology and discovered F.D.Maurice. Maurice was born at the beginning of the 1800s. His father was a Unitarian minister. Unitarians were a Christian sect — separated from the established Church of England and strongly suspicious and negative towards any believers outside their Unitarian tribe.

Maurice eventually left his tribe, joined “the enemy” and became an Anglican priest. The wisdom he left for me to discover was the little saying, “A person is most often right in what he affirms and wrong in what he denies.” When I read this my head exploded. It explained everything.

It’s simple. Whenever you’re saying “No” to something you’re probably on the wrong track. Whenever you’re saying “Yes” you’re probably…

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Dwight Longenecker

Catholic priest, author and speaker. Author of Immortal Combat-Confronting the Heart of Darkness. Blogs at dwightlongenecker.com