How Binary Thinking Holds Us Back


Audio Link:


When someone is wrong, we often want them to stay wrong so that we can stay right.

Binary, dualist thinking misleads us. It lies to us. It tells us (most often convincingly), that to be, for one thing, we must be against another. In this case, to support survivors passionately, as I do, one must blanket condemn alleged abusers.

Actually, both things can be true, at once. We can believe folks who have been assaulted; we can condemn the unacceptable behavior, and create space for abusers to make authentic changes, amends, restitution, and ultimately to become of service to the movement toward the elimination of toxic masculinity and the fulmination of gender equity.

I believe the women who have accused James Franco. They have my unequivocal, fierce support and love. When I said the word “terrific” about a portion of his fumbling apology, that was on Wednesday of last week before I knew about the extent of the allegations. Indeed, many have to come to light since my BBC World HardTalk interview.

I also believe that elements of his statement are hopeful (not the entire statement), specifically his expressed desire to set right all harms done and to make restitution.

Time will tell if he does these things.

I like that he said them. That is what I meant when I said “terrific.” And of course, words are meaningless without action; Only time will tell if he makes this right.

So often, when someone is wrong, we want them to stay wrong so that we can stay right. That is the binary that precludes space for people to change and for men (not just Franco, and not only men) to take an in-depth and moral inventory of themselves. Also, to do the work to make their unacceptable behavior something both of the past and that is redeemed for something that can be of service to another human being.

Humility, teachability, grace, and mercy make that possible. And it never means the behavior was okay.

It means we have to live on this planet together, and together we are trying to create a more just, fair, safe, and beautiful world.

That is the spirit of what I meant. I understand all of that cannot be conveyed in fifteen seconds. If some folks are going to be quick to condemn me for wanting to give space and have hope for boys and men, that is their binary, dualistic thinking in action.

This movement, to me, is big enough to hold contradictions, paradoxes, and tension. God does. So I believe we are asked to try.

I will first and foremost always be with victim-survivor-leaders, and I will also try to understand and support men who are willing to be accountable and change.

Our lives and our society depend on this.