Mel Schwartz, LCSW

Flip Flopping

The term flip-flopper generally evokes notions of politician’s charges against one another as they change their positions on issues. It suggests that one or the other is being hypocritical as they are altering their positions as it becomes politically expedient to do so. During the Bush-Kerry campaign, the Republicans were the aggressor more often in using this tactic.

I wondered at that time, why Kerry or his advisers hadn’t come out of the defensive stance against such charges and introduced the notion of new thinking and new learning. In other words, as one gains new information and has new insights, ought not their position change? It seemed that the Bush people were taking the stance that once you had a position, it should never be altered or modified. This is curious thinking. We should feel compelled to question the validity of the charge before we defend ourselves. Could you imagine the possibilities if Kerry’s response against flip-flopping went something like this: “Of course my position has changed over time. I am a thinking man and as such I take in new information and am open to new considerations. Are you suggesting President Bush that once your mind is made up, the cement has dried and there is no evolving of thought?”

Last week, Barack Obama indicated that upon his upcoming visit to Iraq, he would meet with the military commanders and perhaps refine his position on withdrawal. The immediate McCain camp’s response is that Obama was flip-flopping. Let’s consider the word refine. It suggests a deepening of thinking and position, a serious comtemplation based upon an evolving intellect. Indeed, it is altogether possible that Mr. Obama’s refinement of position might lead him to hasten the troop withdrawal.

In life outside of the political arena as well, it is so vital that we communicate with deeper meaning and authenticity. Doing so requires that we not necessarily defend ourselves against charges, but come in to the deeper integrity of why our thinking has altered. Is it simply the convenience of shifting without a deeper grounding or is there reason for this new position? Albert Einstein was a leading pacifist during the the early 1930’s. He was adamantly opposed to war or armed conflict. Yet, the rise of Hitler’s aggression caused Einstein to reconsider his philosophical stance. New informations, new events modified his position. How ridiculous would it have been to charge him with being a flip-flopper?

I for one admire people whose thoughts and beliefs are open to their own ongoing scrutiny. As such, there is a detachment from ego and a commitment to continuous learning. Such a transition would assist us, not only in the polticial realm, but in our everyday lives as well.

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Yes, I agree that Albert Einstein was a great scientist as well. I like what Mel Schwartz said, that changing your mind because you are better informed does not mean you are a flip-flopper. It is far better to have an open mind and learn more through your experiences than to just stand strong on an opinion just because it is what you have always done.


This is an excellent blog and a reminder that we are allowed to change as we grow. Changing one’s mind does not imply that we are fickle, as some might believe. “Ancora Imparo”!

David Greenberg

I’m reminded of an old but apropos joke:

Person 1: “I changed my mind.”
Person 2: “I hope it works better.”

It is BECAUSE we have minds that we CAN change them. Small-minded people have no ‘head room’ for that operation. Imagination is the missing volume.

Matthew Selznick

People have differing relationships with change. Some ask, “why do i have to change?” Others inquire as to how they may change. I believe these differences speak to our core relationship with our identity. If we see ourselves as evolving we welcome change, if we see our persona as fixed, we tend to defend it mightily..

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