Love Letters to Humans (no. 104) — on Conflict

Unpopular opinion: Conflict is opportunity.

In cultures of domination and supremacy, we learn that conflict is wrong, impolite, unacceptable, dangerous even.

To challenge the dominant authority—at home, at work, in our communities, organizations, and institutions—is to challenge the comfort of everyone for whom the status quo is working well enough.

We associate conflict with punishment. The “loser” suffers unpleasant consequences: social, political, financial, physical.

For the prolonged comfort of the privileged and the illusion of safety of the vulnerable, many of us have been taught (and agreed) to avoid, control, and erase difference for so long that we have lost sight of the gold that lies in disagreement.

What if we were skilled enough to be enthusiastic about conflict, to go after understanding each other in difference, to maintain our integrity in the face of uncertainty?

In our relationships with ourselves, the people we say we love, our work (I use this word in its very broadest sense), and the world, moments of conflict are points at which we engage with our deepest values and define our integrity.

Moments of conflict are opportunities

… to know ourselves more clearly.

… to go after understanding one another more deeply.

… to regard our own humanity and sovereignty.

… to regard the humanity and sovereignty of others.

… to clarify and engage with our values.

… to commit to our integrity.

… to deepen intimacy.

… to pursue just, sustainable relationships.

… to disrupt the status quo and intentionally create the world we say we want.


Tension holds possibility. Right relationship nourishes.

Love Letters to Humans (no. 103) — on Dangerous Disobediences

The desire to thrive together in right relationship calls on us to examine the rules we follow & the ways we participate in systems of oppression, and consider several basic and wildly dangerous disobediences:

Desire—more specifically, the decision to cultivate an intimate familiarity and joyous alignment with your own will.

Honesty—the decision to tell the truth about who you are and what you want, feel, know, believe, observe, and experience is often a punishable infraction against familiar norms… and it is a requirement for nurturing your will.

Transformation—change is a notorious thief of comfort. The decision to embrace and cultivate radical change may be extraordinarily uncomfortable.

Sustainability—the refusal to avoid, exploit, erase, and punish difference, or to participate in your own exploitation, erasure, and punishment. This decision is woefully incompatible with contempt, dominance, & supremacy culture.

Tomorrow in Disobedience School we’ll be talking about the dangerous disobedience of telling the truth.

Every week we have uncomfortable, confronting conversations together, and then we each examine and make decisions in our real lives about the rules we’ve been following and the risks we’re willing to take to cultivate right relationship & build the world we want.

Every week I am astounded and encouraged by us. Thank you for baffling the status quo.

Love Letters to Humans (no. 102) — on Accountability & Grace

Accountability and Contempt are not synonyms. Accountability and Grace are not antonyms.

Holding someone accountable is to hold them capable of answering (responding) to the consequences of their actions. Able to respond: responsible.

Contempt is a disregard for what is so. In our commitment to our ideas about others or ourselves, we may disregard their (or our) innate sovereignty, power, wisdom, humanity, or worthiness. We may disregard their (or our) needs, desires, feelings, boundaries, lived experiences, motivations, limitations, decisions, or commitments.

In moments when we choose to disregard our own or another‘s ability to engage as sovereign, worthy, whole, and capable, we leave ourselves no choice but to avoid, punish, control, or destroy—rather than relate with them about—any difference we find intolerable.

Saying we are holding someone accountable—literally, regarding their sovereignty and ability—while simultaneously disregarding their (un)willingness or (in)ability to do a thing is both a lie and a commitment to dependency and our own suffering.

The dependency loop goes like this: I can’t be okay unless you change, and you can’t or won’t change, so in order for me to be okay, I must force you to change, which you can’t or won’t do. ♾

When we nurture dependency in our partnerships, parenting, work, and politics, we leave less room to cultivate joyful connection, possibility, curiosity, transformation, ritual, mourning, creativity, and play. It’s a repetitive slog, both painful and boring.

Grace is unearned regard—judgment-free consideration for all that we and the other have.

Grace doesn’t stop us from holding ourselves and others accountable nor grant us absolution from responsibility for the fuckery we perpetuate in our personal and collective relationships; it supports us in being present and attentive to what is so, then making decisions to take care of ourselves, our commitments, and our communities accordingly.

Relationship is. Right relationship nourishes.

Love Letters to Humans (no. 101) — Grace is Radical

Reversing the direction of our contempt is neither radical nor liberatory.

Supremacy thrives on contempt in all of its expressions, without regard for its target.

As long as someone is right and someone else is wrong, someone is good and someone else is bad, someone deserves grace (which is literally impossible, as grace is—by definition—undeserved) and someone else deserves punishment (which is relationally unsustainable), we continue in the same cycles of interpersonal and collective relational fuckery.

Contempt directed at oneself is equally effective at perpetuating supremacy as contempt directed at someone else.

To surrender our own sovereignty, knowing, and will is no more or less contemptuous than to demand that another surrender theirs.

Martyrdom, self-flagellation, or participation in own punishment does not free us or absolve us of our responsibility for our participation in or benefit from the oppression of another… it simply redirects our judgment and disregard from someone else to ourselves. It is punitive, self-centering, and a distraction from the radical decision to regard the humanity of everyone in the relationship, including ourselves.

Requiring someone else’s martyrdom, self-flagellation, or participation in their own punishment does not oppose oppression… it is simply one way to resist our own subjugation (I’m not judging resistance, btw). It is punitive, retaliatory, and a distraction from the radical decision to go after creating right relationship even in the wake of harm.

Fixing others or asking to be fixed, offering validation or chasing it, giving permission or begging for it, defining others or being defined—the only difference is the direction of our contempt.

Supremacy says it’s either/or. We’re good or we’re bad, perfect or problematic. Only one of us knows best. It’s you or me. Only one of us is responsible here. The pendulum swings while we give sovereignty the middle finger.

We come by it honestly, and we can choose something different. But the just & sustainable world we say we want requires room and regard for all of us—our sovereignty and our differences—whether or not we deserve it.

Grace is radical.

Love Letters to Humans (no. 100) — You are necessary. You are responsible.

We are both necessary and responsible to every relationship we inhabit. What now?

None of us exists in a vacuum. We are in relationship with everything, everyone, always. And, there is no relationship we have that we are not in.

You, reading this… you have a relationship with me. I have one with you. We are, each of us, necessary and responsible.

The people we disagree with most? We have relationships with them, too. We inhabit relational ecosystems with them. We are necessary and responsible to those relational ecosystems because we inhabit them.

There is no relational decision we make that does not impact us. From our partnerships to our parenting to our politics and every other relationship we have, our choices shape both us and the world we inhabit together.

We cannot disregard another without consequences to ourselves. We cannot disregard ourselves without consequences to the whole.

You are necessary.

You are responsible.

Given that, what now?

Love Letters to Humans (no. 99) — on Rules

We are responsible for the consequences of breaking unjust rules. We are equally responsible for the consequences of following them.

Rules aren’t always laws, codified and spelled out for all to examine. Some of our most powerful and pervasive rules are implicit, unspoken, invisible. We learn them by living them, as a matter of survival and a matter of fact.

The injustice of some of our unspoken social, cultural, and familial agreements lies in their failure (deliberate or unintentional) to regard the humanity, wellbeing, and innate value of everyone in the relationship.

Often, when we comply with unspoken agreements we do not regard the most vulnerable, we do not regard the lived experience of the humans in front of us, we do not regard our selves.

We come by it honestly—injustice is woven into the fabric of our societies, cultures, and families. And we get to choose. We get to examine the rules we’ve inherited and decide which ones we will accept responsibility for following, and which ones we will accept responsibility for breaking.

Relationship is. Right relationship nourishes.

Love Letters to Humans (no. 98) — on Destruction and Power

Our understanding & analyis of power informs our relational strategies everywhere—at home, in community, in our organizations, in our partnerships, parenting, and politics. When we disregard our own power, we destroy to get our needs met.

I do not oppose destruction. Actually, I love it. And it has its time and place. (That’s an exploration for another day.) What I question is the strategy of destruction as an opening move to meeting our needs in relationship.

When we don’t understand how much power we truly have—how resourceful we are, how creative, how connected to source and to each other, how much courage we have, how many possibilities exist in relating rather than destroying—it makes sense that every time we encounter a bridge that seems too high and frightening to cross, we would reach for a match instead of inching forward toward the dangerous unknown. We already know how to burn the bridges we haven’t yet learned to cross.

Destroying instead of relating in our most important relationships can sometimes look like: Snapping at someone for not being helpful instead of asking if they have capacity to support us in a moment of frustration • Accusing someone of intentional wrongdoing instead of asking what outcome they were hoping for • Limiting our own options (for work, play, worship, political action, romantic love, etc.) because we don’t want to associate with a person or group of people • Cutting off communication because we don’t want to hear someone else’s lived experience if it contradicts our assumptions about them • Shaming ourselves instead of allowing ourselves to feel what we feel and be where we are in an experience • Punishing someone else (or ourselves) for mistakes rather than encouraging growth and learning from them • Withdrawing from relationships to avoid the discomfort of tension or confrontation • Diminishing someone’s personhood when we disagree with them or disapprove of their choices

I hold this: relating is as powerful as destruction, and generally more effective for meeting our needs. And our relational fuckeries brilliantly show us where we have an opportunity to develop greater skill and capacity for showing up to tension, discomfort, and conflict with power that supports the wholeness of each of us and all of us. I want this for us.

Love Letters to Humans (no. 97) — on Punishment

Punishment is the relational fuckery of conflating violence with education. Most often the lesson is “be less like you and more like me.” This can be a perplexing lesson coming from someone who takes no issue with their own cruelty.

Sometimes our punishments are so subtle they’re nearly invisible—a quiet but intention-laden withdrawal from conversation, a rejected invitation to engage, a sideways look of disapproval. These aren’t always cruel or punitive choices… and sometimes they are.

Other punishments are blatant, violent, and unmistakable. A dressing down, shunning, shaming, loss of work or community, verbal or physical abuse, neglect, incarceration, death.

We come by our relational fuckery honestly. We learned through experiencing and witnessing punishment that to influence others, get our needs met, and effect change in the world, the most effective strategies were coercion, manipulation, threats, and punishment.

The commonality across punishments is the intention to dehumanize the recipient and reinforce our illusion of superiority so that we can feel safer, more worthy, comfortable, or resourced.

Is punishment working the way you want it to? Is it working politically, in your organizations, in your communities, at home? Is it making you better? More whole? Is it restoring your relationships to harmony?

If you have been following the unspoken rule that to be good you must participate in your own punishment or the punishment of others, I invite you to consider a life of disobedience.

The June-August session of Disobedience School for Humans Raised to be Good Girls and Nice Guys has almost filled. I’ll lead another cohort in October. Let’s talk if you’d like to know more. I’d love that.

Love Letters to Humans (no. 96) — on Disobedience and Belonging

Would you risk the access your obedience buys to claim the belonging that is your birthright?

Our compliance with the status quo is rooted in our very real and valid desire for survival within systems built on the erasure, destruction, and subjugation of difference. Access to resources, a sense of safety (and even superiority), and the experience of being socially accepted are often predicated on us hiding the truest parts of ourselves and the differences we bring.

Obedience can sometimes look like: pretending to be “normal” (masking) • culturally assimilating • prioritizing the comfort of others to our own detriment • obligating ourselves to emotional labor, whether or not it is explicitly requested of us • performing gender in ways that do not align with who we really are • code switching • making small talk • dieting • softening our tone • overworking ourselves • perfectionism • participating in things that energetically drain us • performing concern for things we don’t actually care about • choosing the “right” school, career, or partner instead of the right one for us • skipping dessert • being nice all the time • punishing others • punishing ourselves • pretending to be strong when we’re hurting or lonely • over-giving, over-achieving, over performing • under-giving, under-achieving, under-performing • people-pleasing • silence in the face of injustice • not talking about grief, death, or loss • choosing the thing that will cause the least amount of tension and prompt zero questions from the people around us… and this is a short list.

The rules are endless and contradictory, and attempting to obey them conditionally buys us the privileges of acceptance, access to resources, power, status, and protection from punishment.

I have no judgment about us wanting to avoid punishment and get our basic needs met, nor am I suggesting that we have an obligation to risk our ability to survive in order to be more of ourselves.

I am asking if there’s more—if in our obedience to the status quo we’re giving up the unconditional belonging and joyful connection that are our birthright.

I am asking if showing up with more of what we’ve got to experience belonging as we truly are is possibly worth risking some of the privileges that keep us comfortable and disconnected.


Starting in June 5th I’ll be teaching and exploring these questions more deeply with a small group of folks in Disobedience School for Humans Raised to be Good Girls and Nice Guys.

If you’re interested in learning more and joining the conversation, I’d love to hear from you.

Love Letters to Humans (no. 95) — on Empathy and the Disobedience of Emotional Boundaries

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. It is not an obligation to make out with other people’s emotions. Just because you can doesn’t mean you must.

When we’ve learned that empathy is synonymous with disappearing our personhood in the wake of someone else’s big feelings, of course it can feel mean, bad, or wrong to have emotional boundaries.

When we’ve been conditioned to nurture, caretake, and people-please as a cornerstone of our identity, of course it can feel disobedient to make room to have our own feelings instead of taking on the feelings and energy of someone who is in emotional distress.

We come by it honestly—we live in contexts and cultures that expect or demand emotional labor based on the bodies we inhabit and the identities we hold. Some of us were raised in families where we learned brilliantly & early on to place the emotional needs of others before our own, where bypassing our own feelings and prioritizing other people’s made us “good” and “nice”—and good and nice meant surviving childhood.

And when we’re ready for something more, different (disobedient) decisions are available to us. It is gloriously possible to take care of your emotional and energetic boundaries without being an asshole. I can’t promise that you won’t break some rules doing it, or that rule-breaking is without risk & consequences.

Disobedience School for Humans Raised to be Good Girls and Nice Guys start on June 5th. Registration starts with a conversation. Let’s talk. 🧡