Love and acceptance

Every human being deserves dignity, opportunity, respect…We all want to be seen, we want to be heard, we want to be missed when we are gone.

Another way to say this, we all need to be loved.

The tension comes in acceptance.

Where should we draw the lines of when it is acceptable to exclude certain groups and when is it not okay? What gets accepted in the cannon? Who defines the tribe? Is exclusion ever okay?

Because by definition, tribes are made up of insiders and outsiders. They’re made of people like us who do stuff like this. In the right setting, a tribe is a magical thing. At its best, getting a group of like minded individuals pointing in the same direction can change things for the better. (The opposite is true too.)

Because most of us agree that excluding woman from voting or excluding a person from drinking a water fountain because of their skin color is not the kind of culture we want to build.

Here’s another one: LGB youth who come from highly rejecting families are 8.4 times as likely to have attempted suicide as LGB peers who reported no or low levels of family rejection.

(Think about that for a minute.)

On the other hand, we don’t want to live in a world without tribes. Tribes are an important part of our history. They help us define who we are and where we come from (language, traditions, food, dance, religion…).

But if tribes are for everyone, they are for no one. Which means they have to exclude someone.


Does love equal acceptance? Does acceptance equal love? Are the two binary?

Here’s what I think:

  • Everyone needs a tribe. We need people like us to connect with, to share our life with. The internet has made it so much easier to find a tribe. The bell curve of the masses is melting and people are moving to the fringes.
  • We have to be careful who we exclude. Because our track record has shown we don’t do a good job of excluding people for the right reasons. Our worldview, bias, prejudice and snap judgments get in the way.
  • Tribes, in the right context/lens, can change things for the better. They can also turn into an echo chamber. Diversity brings better ideas.
  • Status plays a key role in everything we do. Status determines who eats first, who’s in or out. And the easiest way to raise your status among the tribe is to say, “You don’t belong here.”
  • There are inalienable rights, natural rights that cannot be revoked by an outside force.
  • Tribes and culture are a two-way street. One can influence the other.

One more thing: We cannot understate the role fear plays in our day-to-day lives. Most strife in love and acceptance comes when culture and tribes clash. Most exclusion is rooted in fear based reactions. It’s the work of nostalgia (a world that never existed) and utopia (a world that could never be).

The thing is, we are all in this together. Maybe we shouldn’t care as much.

Acceptance is not always guaranteed in some tribes. (Because what fun would it be to watch me play in the NBA?) But it should be automatic in others. (What person doesn’t need healthcare?)

And so, overtime, the culture bends. Tribes evolve. The cannon changes. We become more inclusive and more accepting with more knowledge.

Because people like us do stuff like this.