BISHOP OF PORTSMOUTH: It takes great courage to admit you've change your mind
The Rt Rev Christopher Foster says politicians face a no-win situation
There are some big characters jostling for position in the news these days, whether it’s on the international stage or in UK politics.
It’s probably always like that, but sometimes you notice it more.
When it happens I suppose that the aim is for politicians to seem like they are powerful, in control, and able to get things done.
Not that those are bad things, but I wonder what it would be like if they (and we) were more willing to admit our limitations, to recognize that sometimes it’s good to change our minds.
This is where I feel a little sorry for politicians, because they face a bit of a no-win situation.
If they stick to their opinions then they’ll be accused of being stubborn and unwilling to listen to the voices of the people.
If they do change their stance on something, then they’ll be accused of making a U-turn, and asked why they had made a mistake in the first place.
It’s not that there’s anything wrong with having strong convictions; it’s good to really believe in things, and to strive for what looks genuinely to be the best option.
But at the same time, it’s not a weakness to change your mind, to admit that you’ve learned something and now see things differently. In fact, it takes tremendous courage to do that.
William Wilberforce is known for being passionately opposed to the slave trade, and working tirelessly for the abolitionist cause in which he so fervently believed. But at other times, according to at least one biographer, he gained a reputation for regularly changing his mind, almost to a fault.
Maybe it’s possible to take it too far, but the point was not that Wilberforce was naturally indecisive, but that he cared more about doing the right thing than he did about what people thought of him.
He cared more about doing what was actually good, than he did about looking good.
It’s good to work passionately for causes that we care about, and that’s only strengthened by an open mind that is bold enough to say ‘I don’t know’.
When we do that, it’s amazing what can follow.