Honor your opponent
May you be blessed with the gift of a rival
“Without conflict, there can be no trust. Conflict exists to show us who is there for us unconditionally and who is just there for the benefits. No one trusts a yes-man.”
This principle comes from a conversation with Chelsea Larsson.
If you want to share space with other people, conflict is unavoidable. Especially if you value diversity in your communities. Because you most definitely have a bias, you can never fully avoid disharmony. But you can choose one of two paths: Regard your adversary with contempt, or honor your opponent, even as your swords clash in mid-air.
The American Way is to give your enemy a name and eradicate him. It is a populace fractured into countless binaries (Red Vs Blue), and most folks can’t stomach the Other Side. Ain’t it strange that there is nothing the Other Side has to offer? The temptation to eradicate is visceral and real. Smash the patriarchy. Own the libs. Fuck the New York Yankees. But war slogans reduce a complex world into a binary, and the universe is not binary.
The Continental Way (at least, this romanticized conception of it) is to honor your opponent and bring your adversary closer. It means showing up to conflict with relish (rather than fear) and treating your opposition with curiosity and gratitude (rather than contempt). You don't have to declare war. It can be a rap battle. It can be witty repartee over epees. It can be couples therapy. It can be a cease fire, on Christmas Day, to play a game of soccer.
When you honor your opponent, you flip a tiny switch that allows conflict to resemble cocreation. To honor your opponent is to entertain the impossible belief that someone completely unlike you can make you better.
It might not happen, but you might as well try.
This is the last issue of 2023. Microprinciples will return to your inbox in January 2024. Thanks as always for reading and for your feedback.