Justin Ricklefs


It’s likely not either/or, it’s probably both/and.

“Yeah, of course…and…”

He continued my sentence, which was actually an angry or resentful rant I’m sure, with such nonchalance.

Like some judo move where he somewhat agreed and validated my position, and then instead of debating or arguing the first sentence, he changed the game and expanded my own thought.

And his second sentence, at first glance, contradicted my first point.

Or so I thought.

I sat there, confused.

In that comfy, and yet so uncomfortable, counselor’s couch.

He said a kinder, wiser version of this truth, but what I remember was…

“We get into trouble with our either/or thinking, shutting down any other alternatives, being certain in our opinions, closed off with such black and white thinking.”

My defensiveness didn’t like where he was going.

“When we reduce things to such binary thinking, it doesn’t allow us to see the complexities, nuances, and paradox that is life and love.”

At that point, I was in way over my head.


But what about the first sentence?

When my heels were dug in, I was sure of my position, and dammit, I was right?

Aren’t I right?


He pulled out his chess board, while I demanded he KING ME in a different game entirely.

It’s been an ever open invitation for me to learn, and I find myself playing the familiar game far too often, but the beauty of both/and thinking is such a radical, abundant, open, and generous posture.

When I find myself thinking, posturing, or arguing that it’s EITHER this OR it must be that, I’m reminded of that uncomfortable seat on that comfortable couch.

Both can be true. And they likely are.

Life can be beautiful. And extremely broken.

Work can be full of anxiety. And yet, full of purpose.

Dreams can be worth pursuing. And somewhat crazy.

You might have made a terrible decision. And you’re not terrible.

Relationships can be messy. And they’re worth fighting for.

Both options can feel unwise. And a third option can emerge.

That person on your team is valid in their thinking. And so is the other with a completely, seemingly opposite, viewpoint.

You can have pure motives. And really twisted ones at the same time.

The evidence of either/or thinking is all around us.

It leads to division, defensiveness, closed-mindedness, tiny compartments, judgments, assumptions, and smaller worlds.

It feels safe. And to a degree, it works.

For awhile.

It looks certain. It presents as confident and clear.

And yet, it removes curiosity, limits expansion, and keeps us all fighting for smaller pieces of the shrinking pie.

Both are true.

And, when I’m aware of it, I’m much more interested in playing paradox chess with my judo friend and learning how to bake bigger pies.

Instead of being dug in binaries.

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