Just Set In His Ways

“He’s just set in his ways.”  Everyone’s heard the phrase.  Most of us have even said it ourselves a time or two.  Some older people dress a certain way, or pronounce words a little differently, or have peculiar sayings that conjure nostalgia from a different time. But “being set in one’s ways” is not a phrase typically utilized to explain quirky personality traits. The phrase is more commonly used to excuse or even encourage negative thinking, language, or behavior that is archaic, offensive, or otherwise outdated. Despite the average person’s lack of malice when using the phrase, it is of paramount importance to note the destructive message this phrase sends.

Prior to 1863, someone being set in his ways was a perfect excuse for the enslavement of an entire population, and later, the phrase was used again to justify Rosa Parks being told to sit in the back of the bus. Still battling the same ignorance, Martin Luther King gave his life fighting against those to which that phrase applied.  In another instance, the phrase describes all of the people whose opposition had to be thwarted in order to afford women the right to vote in 1920. Also, the people the phrase fits had to be defeated for gays to serve in the military, and many people in the LGBT community have fought tooth and nail against that type of thinking in their quest to legalize gay marriage.

The Nazis were led by ignorant racists who were set in their ways.  Members of the Westboro Baptist Church cause embarrassing scenes for themselves and heartache for families at funerals because they’re set in their ways. Extremist Islamic terrorists bomb embassies and trains and skyscrapers, and there’s no explanation for it—wait, actually there is: These people are set in their ways.

When a man lives into his 90s and is as closed-minded the day he dies as he was taught to be as a young boy, should we really be so forgiving of his ignorance? I say no. If our society as a whole can grow, adapt, and change its mind about significant issues over the course of a century, we should expect an individual to grow, adapt, and change his mind over a century as well.

The greatest leaders in the history of humankind were men and women who saw the folly of past thought and enacted changes to the general discussion about big issues. The worst leaders in history have been people whose minds were made up and who were incapable of accepting that not all their held beliefs are legitimate.

Living by one’s principles is a more than honorable way to live one’s life, but only if those principles are sound and just. When people live by faulty principles and judge others based upon the same principles, the misfortune is twofold. This person hurts others by following a misguided philosophy and judging them accordingly, and more importantly, the person is led by his own principles farther into darkness and farther away from the light of truth and reason, which is the absolute pinnacle of enlightenment.

It’s nearly impossible to respect anyone whose mind is closed in such a terrible way, and it’s even more difficult to listen to legions of other people herald the greatness of a person whose closed mind was the only barrier between this widespread and wonderful reputation and the truth.



~ by hamiltonjacobs on July 7, 2013.

2 Responses to “Just Set In His Ways”

  1. I think that’s oversimplification, especially in the case of the Nazi Party. I suggest you read a book on the Weimar Republic.

  2. And in said book, I will find evidence that rounding up and exterminating a race of people is somehow not ignorant or racist? There is no greater example of “old ways” than those of persecuting Jews. It’s the oldest form of blanket hatred in history, and it’s still raging in the Middle East.

    It’s true, there are examples of oversimplification in this article, but as it is a blog and not a full, fleshed-out tome, I might ask a reader to forgive the lack of in-depth treatment of tangentially important topics in favor of allowing them to fulfill their purpose, which is to support the essence of the notion that ignorance and closed-mindedness are poisons.

    Thank you for reading, Ken. We need to have you guys over for dinner soon!


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