One of the ways that psychologists measure emotional and mental health is called the 5-factor model of personality. Along with DISC and StrengthsFinders and the Meyers-Briggs, this test finds a way to quantify what makes up someone’s personality. For convenience’s sake, the acronym OCEAN describes the five factors that are taken into account: openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. High and low scores on these traits indicate how you might relate to people, how you respond to new or difficult situations, and how you understand yourself and the world.
Openness is one of those factors that often surprises people. I remember my grandpa once saying, “If you keep an open mind, all manner of trash can fall in.” It is tempting to know what you know, and operate from there – a place of certainty. It is a place of expertise and strength, and of finality. It means we have arrived at the answer, and we don’t have to be very interested in what other people may think.
Openness is a different approach: in a way it is a form of humility, saying that you do not know all there is to know, that you will consider new input. Openness is curiosity about what else is out there. It is being willing to change your mind or your stance in response to new information or understanding.
Here at Love, we have identified Openness as one of our core values because we believe it follows God’s call on us to continually learn, to be curious about the world and the wonders it holds. Philippians 2:3-4 say:
3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
In our ministry, we constantly look for new information from our volunteers, from our participants, from each other. We value what each person brings to a conversation or a project, and remind ourselves that it is more important to bring our questions and curiosity to a situation than to bring answers. We are open to new ways of understanding each other and understanding the world.
I love that my father’s response to my grandfather’s claim that if you have an open mind, all manner of garbage will fall in was this: “That’s only true if your mind is empty.” And that is a critical distinction: we consider all things, and we are discerning about what to keep. Not every new way is better, not every novel opinion will change our minds. But to be open to listen, to consider, and to understand does not threaten our ability to hold on to the things that we know to be true. We can be open and discerning. In fact, that is what we are called to be.
One of the most powerful ways that a value of openness affects our ministry is that we are open to seeing the places that God is moving – we are open to a God that moves in ways we don’t expect, in places that we aren’t familiar with, and through people that we don’t always feel comfortable with. Sometimes it means being open to a new call from God – to move into new spaces for ministry that we have never done before, to work with people that are unfamiliar.
Most fundamentally, we believe at Love that we need to be open to each other. Openness shapes relationships. Openness shapes our culture at Love. Openness encompasses humility, curiosity and expectation. To look toward each other expecting that each person has something to teach us, that God brings people to Love for a reason, and that we are eager to learn together, from each other, about how God will use us as we witness His transforming work in our shared community.
Read a beautiful example of openness from Love here!