Who you choose to do business with matters. It’s a part of how we each individually take a stand for the things we believe in. By so doing, we direct precious resources toward like-hearted individuals and companies which helps us rest more assured that our financial assets are being used in ways that align with our own values and principles. In this way, I believe, we help to create and strengthen Love in the world.
The information in the various sections of this page attempt to accomplish three key objectives:
- Shine a light of transparency on the stand I and ♾actualinfinity take in relationship to various important issues that matter to humanity, the world over.
- Help me articulate what is in my heart and why, and to do so in a very public way, so that I am publicly accountable for the alignment of my own personal intentions and behaviors, and that alignment remains impeccable – both when front-and-center, but also behind the scenes where fewer people observe. When I make mistakes, or my behavior deviates from being aligned to whats written here, I hope this page helps create safety to offer feedback to me personally.
- Provide a clear, consistent way to answer visitor questions which are asked pretty frequently, or are of interest to others.
As always, if anything on this page is not clear, or feels disagreeable, wrong, misinformed, or privileged, you are welcome to ask questions and send inquiries by reaching out to me via the Contact Page. Or, you can reply to any email I’ve ever sent you.
Before I get into the details, I want to share what this page is not intended for.
As your own sovereign being, you can draw whatever conclusions you wish as a result of reading these, “Matters of Policy & Principle.” I imagine that you will draw conclusions about who I am, and you will think of me however you choose to think of me. I celebrate your choices.
However, articulating these principles and policies is in no way meant to present myself as better, “woke,” awakened, enlightened, un-fragile, on the right side of history, or an ally to any specific group. I share these important policies and principles to help nurture an environment of kindness, transparency, accountability, clarity, beauty, and respect, to name a few. I hope these qualities will foster a sense of safety, empathy, and loving support.
In our world today, there are many things to stand against. There are many things that I and actualinfinity stand against.
Some of the things I stand against, resist, and avidly seek to dismantle:
- White supremacy
- Misuse of power
- LGBTQIA+ phobia of any kind
- Size-ism / Fatphobia
- Misogyny / Misognyoir / Transmisogny
- Capitalism (as it is today, using money as the currency)
- Any form of oppression, bias, discrimination, aggression, or “othering,” due to religion, dis/ability, economic, education, political, age, race, sexual, class, cultural, ethnic, gender, social, or marriage status.
NOTE: This list is not exhaustive in any aspect.
There is always a lot to stand against, to fight against, to resist. And, it’s important to name what is harmful, violent, oppressive, and wrong. This is a part of the healing process, for, how can we heal when we haven’t clearly identified what’s broken? Identifying a broken bone, for example, isn’t enough all by itself, to begin the healing process. Identification is only helpful if there is a place of healing that you can then move toward.
However, naming things to stand for is far less prominent. It doesn’t really count to simply throw “anti-” in front of the word as a way to describe what you’re about. How do you adequately communicate what you stand for?
There’s a handful of broad words used to describe what that might sound like, but those words are far fewer in our vocabulary. There are eleven synonyms for the word racism, but only two antonyms. Opposite words for all the concepts and systems above simply don’t exist, which is a testament to why we as a human race, trying to use language to communicate how to come together and build a better, more healed, more connected world, ends up running itself in circles over and over again. Our language is grossly deficient.
Additionally, this is not an easy list to create, because humans are conditioned to name the negative perspective, simply because our limbic system is programmed to protect us from danger.
It’s important to be clear about these harmful systems – but not in isolation. Without also naming a place to go, a vision to create, something you’re moving toward, you could end up anywhere. Better to know where you’re headed.
(I will share what I believe in as it relates to the list above in the following section.)
The same is true for business. You may be clear on who you don’t want to help, or what you don’t do, but you’ll find it’s very hard to communicate to the people you do want to help, and to share a compelling message of how you can help them, if you haven’t clearly articulated that.
I’m by no means flawless in this principle. And, I believe in it strongly enough, that it’s here at the top of my list.
In my practice with this principle, I find that it’s much more challenging to present things from the perspective of what I want, what I’m moving towards, than it is to talk about what I resist, or am moving away from.
And so, I challenge myself and you to notice which perspective you usually take. And while you name those systems or behaviors which are problematic, harmful, or wrong, put a concerted effort to also include what you believe in, what you stand for, too.
(If you haven’t read the previous section, that might be helpful for context before reading this section.)
As it relates to the long list of things I ardently resist from the prior section, one of the things I hear many “social justice warriors” talk about is systemic racism, and how that needs to be dismantled. To be clear, I completely agree with this statement. However, that’s about as effective as trying to create a new method of air travel by first dismantling all the current airplanes.
What I don’t hear discussed is what will be put in it’s place. Life doesn’t exist in a vacuum. If you dismantle a system, it will need to be replaced by something else, or it will be filled by something different, but built on the same broken principles that inhabited the first one.
There is also a lot of talk about justice. But people have differing views on what Justice looks like. Who’s justice do we abide by? Talking only about justice is hollow at best, and violent at worst.
If we as a human society aren’t clear and unified on what it is we want the world to look like, then, without a doubt, we will simply create new systems which will be different, but will still contain bias, oppression, exclusion, and violence.
Yes, more is required of us than simply dismantling systems of oppression, or demanding justice. To avoid the same mistakes we’ve made repeatedly before, we need to go deeper. We need to go all the way to the heart of things.
I believe the solution to these problematic systemic injustices rests in our individual and collective hearts.
It will therefore come as no surprise to anyone who knows me that I believe the antidote to all the above is a potent mixture of Love, Kindness, and Curiosity rooted firmly in each individual heart, and thereby in the heart of our collective society. There is no situation that I’ve been able to conjure that can not be healed completely applying even two of those three.
I believe at the heart of healing and repair is a potent mixture of Love, Kindness, and Curiosity.
But isn’t that kind-of pollyanna-ish? Meaning, isn’t that a bit blindly optimistic? (Please be assured, I get this question/accusation a lot.)
I resolutely say, “not at all.”
While it’s elegantly simple, working at the level of the heart is much more challenging work.
However, it’s where real solutions are found.
Human systems don’t just create themselves. Human create them. We can’t just tear down systemic racism and build something new, without shifting the heart condition of the humans doing the building. Otherwise, we get new systems built with the same problems. They might look and feel different. They might oppress and hurt a different group. Different segments might have more power than before. But all of these scenarios are simply, as I like to say, “The same ol’ shit, wearing different clothes.” (Since when did shit start wearing clothes?)
We must learn what Love truly is, in all its forms and facets. It’s not just some soft, fluffy feeling of attraction. Love also includes power, beauty, justice, fairness, and acceptance. Combined with kindness, and a willigness to be curious, nothing is unsurmountable.
This solution is the long path, the one with more challenge, fraught with more potential pain, but ultimately, it’s the solution I believe addresses, solves, guides, and heals everything that ails humanity. It certainly isn’t wrong to take a step in this direction, and call that a win. Absolutely. However, my heart insists that, just as it’s important to name the real problem, it’s important to name the real solution.
Closely tied to beliefs and principles, are concepts or ideas which I and ∞actualinfinity support. This list is not exhaustive, but I want to be name clearly where I stand.
- I believe in supporting, centering, uplifting, freeing, liberating, dignifying, loving, respecting, and pursuIng wholeness and acceptance, for our fellow humans with black and/or brown skin, those who are natives and/or indigenous, all people of color, trans women and men, those in the LGBTQIA+ community, women, migrants, those who are physically, neurologically, emotionally, or spiritually divergent or uncommonly wired, those who are economically disadvantaged, the elderly, etc. and using curiosity to create structures and systems rooted in love and kindness to support, expand, and further these beliefs.
- Yes… Black Lives Matter.
- I also believe that curiosity, love, and kindness are the root of building healthy business that heals the world, instead of raping it. These values guide my heart and my work here at ∞actualinfinity and heart+co.lab.
In the previous two bullet points, I’ve talked a lot about social and racial justice issues and what I stand for. However, as stated in the introductory paragraphs of this page, “articulating these principles and policies is in no way meant to present myself as better, “woke,” awakened, enlightened, un-fragile, on the right side of history, or an ally to any specific group.
To be clear: I do not deserve kudos, commendation, accolades, or increased credibility for doing the right thing as it relates to social justice. As a white male, I have been a party to the violent oppression of people with black and brown skin for way too many hundreds of years. Recompense is long overdue. There shall be no rewarding my behavior and participation in a system that has oppressed so many for so long. I am complicit in all of it because of the whiteness of my skin, and my gender.
I am quite active on the social justice front. Outside of my own reading, research, study, and participation in various online programs, I also post regularly, write regularly, and support anti-racist organizations regularly. No one knows the extent of it, because I keep my work private. I even have social media accounts under a pseudonym, so as not to draw attention to me, or my business. I donate anonymously whenever possible.
Why do I do things this way?
The way I’ve arranged my life is inclusive of my business. Because my life is about spirituality, love, kindness, and curiosity, and my business is also about spirituality, love, kindness, and curiosity, there is a lot of overlap. Additionally, my business is about helping transform business to help heal instead of harm, which is inextricably linked with social justice.
However, for me to use my work with social justice in my business, and use those “good karma points” to win favor and establish credibility or heighten the belief that I’m a trustworthy, woke, enlightened individual (choose your word) and therefore I’m able to entice more people to work with me – paying me, and in essence supporting me – especially BIPOC (black, indigenous, people of color) folx… what that essentially becomes in my perspective is: A white man, once again, building his wealth upon the backs of the oppressed. Yes, sure, this time the effort is to eradicate oppression, nevertheless, it would still be standing upon their oppression to lift myself up. That, to me, seems contrary to what I stand for and believe in.
I see white male business owners touting their social justice efforts like some kind of badge of honor. I witness them almost braggadociously talking about how they hired yet another black social justice educator to help them develop in their anti-racism work, as if it does anyone but themselves any good to know that. I have personally witnessed public pleading on social media for the rights and welfare of women to be treated and paid fairly in the workplace, while at the very same time illegally failing to pay the women working in their own business! And we’ve all probably seen business owners who get on the social justice bandwagon when someone with brown or black skin is shot in the back by police, but they quickly fall silent. And I’ve seen grandiose inclusion, diversity, and anti-racism business plans that never see the light of day past the initial development.
For me, if I engaged in any of that behavior, it would be nothing but manipulative marketing, using the oppression and violence against people with black and brown skin to build my own credibility, business, and wealth.
Some questions I ask myself:
Q: Aren’t I doing the same thing by what I’ve written under my given name, and for ∞actualinfinity, including what I’ve written here?
A: It’s a fine line, which I understand. I am not the judge and jury when it comes to where this line is, or when it’s crossed. I have my own judgements and boundaries for myself, which help me to stay in integrity in my own heart, and that’s all I’m trying to do.
Q: Isn’t it important to help create an atmosphere of safety in a business so that clients can step toward you? And with all this social and racial injustice, isn’t it important to make the social justice stand of the business a clear part of the mix?
A: Yes, safety is important. However, safety is not only created by social justice issues. There are other ways to create safety, and I try to lean upon those more than leveraging my social justice work to do that. Also yes, it’s important that the business name problems and solutions clearly, which I’m doing on this page. I will not, however, incorporate social justice as a tool to market my self or my business, thereby building my business on the backs of the oppressed. I am certain I miss my own mark here, but I also believe in accountability, and so I make this stand public, so I can be held accountable when I inevitably fail.
Stop Thy Over-giving
Here’s the long and the short of it: Over the years, in various jobs, roles, and in my own business, for a variety of reasons, I’ve consistently given of myself far beyond the agreements I’ve made – this is called “over-giving.” There are significant costs to over-giving, and the reason that it’s such an insidious critter is that it sneaks up on you and before you know it, you’re way over-drawn in one way or another.
Over-giving – the Lesson
When you over-give, you are giving beyond what you’ve previously decided or agreed upon – either for yourself, or between you and a client – as fair and agreeable. I would argue that doing this on an occasional basis is more accurately called “being generous.” Obviously, a good and healthy thing. However, when the generosity is massive, and chronic – that’s when it becomes over-giving.
Over-giving leads to being overdrawn in one or more ways, such as: time, energy, compassion, financial, peace, health, capacity, etc. If this goes on, it creates an unsustainable pattern in your life and business. If left unchecked, it can lead to severe distress, dysfunctional business, and ill health.
An example of this is how, a number of years ago, I worked various roles in a small business owned by someone else. I worked 60+ hours per week on average, while only being paid for 25 hours. I did that for 4+ years, not because it was a horrible working environment, or the boss was a taskmaster. I worked that much because I cared about the company and treated it as if it was my own. That was way, way, way unhealthy for me, despite coming from good intentions. It was mis-aligned with the reality that I was a part-time employee, and **not an owner**. The whole relationship was unhealthy, and it took me over four years to realize it and change the dynamic. By that time, I was burnt out, depleted, resentful, and angry.
As I focused more intently on ∞actualinfinity, what I found was that I continued to over-give to clients. Despite it coming from a well-intended place, it was unhealthy, and needed to stop. And so I made some important changes to get my coaching practice into a place of sustainability.
Robbing Me & My Clients
As I considered how to make adjustments that would bring me back into healthy relationship with generosity, here’s how I thought it through.
I knew I was still going to be generous. It’s who I am, and I didn’t want that to change – I just wanted it to come from actual generosity, not over-giving. There’s such a tremendous distinction between those two.
You know what I realized? With me over-giving that much, I was actually robbing both me and my clients. You know how?
First, because I’d baked the over-giving into my coaching package, I didn’t get the benefit of having my over giving be from a space of “spontaneous generousity.” It’s just part of the package. I feel kind of robbed not being able to be consciously, intentionally, and purposefully generous when (and only when) it’s really doable and sustainable for me. And, for me to exceed expectations, it’s really, really challenging… I set the bar pretty freakin’ high. I know I have exceeded some expectations, and that’s always a thrill, but it’s taken enormous effort that impacts the overall capacity to serve even further.
Second, I robbed clients of receiving my spontaneous generosity. As it was, they still benefited, in the end, yes – but most of what I was giving was expected as a part of our client agreement. However, I asked myself, “What if, instead, I consistently exceeded your expectations, being generous in a sustainable way (for me), but somehow, very often surprising you with something generous? Wouldn’t that feel good? Wouldn’t that make the client experience (more) wonderful?”
And so, I’ve made adjustments, which supports me in not over-giving, and enables me to be generous when I’m truly able. Most of the changes were on my side – how I’m using my time behind the scenes, so that clients felt very little, if any, change.
I still struggle with over-giving. This page itself is another tool I’m using to help support myself publicly in avoiding the over-giving.
I’d like to share some data about my company which I tabulated some years ago. This is real, actual dataI’m hopeful that what I share with you will be compelling enough for you to look deeply at your own business and see where you, too, may be over-giving, and what it’s actually costing you, so you can consider making some of the same adjustments that I have.
Sincere Heart & Real Responsibility
Before I share the data I wanted to be clear that none of this is anyones fault except mine. There isn’t a single thing that I outline below which I have not clearly proposed as a suitable arrangement with clients or contractors. The actions my clients have taken and how we have worked together have been well within our agreement – all of them have met our mutual agreements. No one asked too much of me.
What follows is solely about me and my sincere heart. Responsibility rests squarely upon my shoulders. I find myself in this situation at my own hand, by my own doing. I’ve made good, solid decisions that had worked quite well up until I went through this process. Unfortunately, In the past, good data wasn’t really available, I misinterpreted the unintended consequences of my business model when it reached capacity, and I was unclear about how I was leaning into my values to protect a core wound, instead of supporting my sovereignty.
What you’re about to read is me, showing up with care for myself, along with a sincere desire in my heart to be generous, and living some core principles I believe in, such as: availability, flexibility, and affordability.
Some of you reading this, I’m sure, will be shaking your head saying to yourself, “Uhhhh…. yeah… not surprised, Steve. I know you over-give.” I appreciate your empathy and kindness with this. Please don’t rub it in too hard, okay? #itshardtoseewhenwereinit
Over-giving: The Shocking Data
The data below is on the conservative side of estimates, so the figures in each section are likely the lowest figures. It is written in present tense language because I left it unedited from the time, years ago, when I originally tabulated all this data.
Scheduled calls: I consistently give 25-50% more time to clients on phone calls; sometimes I have given 100% more time. The time has been given freely of my own will, because it feels like the right thing to do to support you. Usually, clients are the ones doing a time check, to make sure I’m okay continuing. That’s not how it’s supposed to go down, so I need to look at that. This does not take into account calls-in-between normally scheduled calls. Those, too, tend to go beyond the scheduled 30-minutes.
So, at a minimum 25% over giving rate, that means I’m donating a generous:
- 94 hours annually / 7.8 hours per month
- $14,100 annual revenue; $1,175 monthly revenue
- 3 additional 2x/mo clients I could help support each year.
I know…. EEEK! Not good. That is just the beginning.
Unlimited Text messages: Thankfully only about ⅓ of my clients text me frequently. Between those who do, in the past six months, together, we’ve sent a total of 3,132 text messages. That ends up being 112 texts per month (minimum). With an average of 3 min each (which for me is not unheard of, and can sometimes be up to 30+ minutes, depending on the topic), that equals:
- 67.2 hours spent texting clients annually; 5.6 hours spent texting per month
- $10,080 annual revenue, $840 in monthly revenue
- 2 additional 2x/mo clients I could help support each year.
Unlimited Email: In the past month, I’ve had 1,068 email conversations (sent/received) from 11 core clients. That’s 16 emails per client per month. Assuming only 5 minutes per email, that means:
- 177.6 hours annually spent on email, or 14.8 hours/month
- $26,699 annual revenue; $2,225 / mo
- 6 additional 2x/mo clients I could help support each year.
Note: this calculation does not take into account reading client emails, thought process I go through, Remembrance I practice, research, etc. So, it’s quite likely that these figures are two to four times what’s listed here.
Email Response Time: On the email front – there have been a few isolated times in which I didn’t meet my commitment as laid out in our client agreement, to return emails within 1 business day, Monday through Thursday. I’ve felt the pain of missing this deadline multiple times – mostly from myself, and also some from clients’ expressed disappointment and request for me to reaffirm my commitment.
According to the data, the average response time for me to reply to client emails over this past 30-day period is: 5h 39m. Average response time from clients back to me: 5h 56m.
A side note on email – it will come as no surprise to any of you that my email word count is almost double yours. Clients average word count is 173 words. My average word count is 376.
Action Summary Follow-up Emails: After the coaching calls with clients in my 2x/mo package, I send out an “action plan summary” email with the recording. These notes often take me quite some time to create (30+ minutes on average) so I can capture important notes from the call, and to summarize the action items. In the past six months, I’ve sent approximately 150 of these follow-up notes in the six month measurement period, not including the ones I sent from over giving to my 1x/month clients. That’s means:
- 150 hours/year; 12.5 hours/mo
- $22,500 in total potential annual revenue; $1,875 in monthly revenue
- 5 additional 2x/mo clients I could help support each year.
So, in summary of each of the four areas I’ve highlighted here, based on these metrics, I’m over-giving myself away to the tune of:
$73,379 in annual revenue
489 hours of labor / 10 hours per week (based on 49 work weeks)
16 additional ongoing clients served
Are you as astounded at these figures as I am?
As Steve Jobs, at Apple often used to say at the big events…”One more thing.”
My Prep & In-Between Care: One thing I’ve come to understand about many coaches is that they spend the hour with you, and that’s truly about all you get. Most don’t spend additional time outside of the phone call.
I do. I spend time prior to client calls (98% of the time) reading through their check-in, doing Remembrance with it, sometimes doing research, preparing thoughts, etc.
When needed, I sometimes create documents, or spreadsheets, or other tools for clients to use. And I hold each client individually in Remembrance daily.
I don’t count any of this time in the figures above, but it’s important for me to include in my thought process. It feels important to include here. And it matters because I’m not just showing up to give clients the hour they paid for… that’s not what I’m wanting to foster in my practice. I take pride in the fact that I do prep and in-between care. I hope it shows in how I show up for clients. It’s part of the value I believe I’m providing, but not something I generally talk about. I really do hope clients feel, and experience, this extra level of care.
So, what do you do with this kind of feedback about over-giving being reflected back from your business?
I shared how I thought through this (not specifically the changes I made, because that’s not the point of this section) above.
This topic is a newer one for me. And I owe my new-found eye-opening to one of my brilliant clients who brought this to my attention. (Thanks Bere!)
As a white male, I’m already used to and conditioned to be centered in virtually everything. On top of that, I’m a citizen of the United States of America! So, basically, within the culture I’m raised, the universe pretty much revolves around me.
Ugh! Yuck! Gross! It disgusts me to write that out so clearly.
I’ve already addressed how I feel and what I stand for regarding the “white male” part of this in the first two bullet points on this page, so I won’t repeat myself here.
I want to focus on the narrow, dangerous, violent, shallow, and naive conditioning that many, if not most in the United States have been raised with.
The conditioning is a paradigm and perspective that the United States and it’s issues are:
- the most important issues globally;
- as concerning to everyone else on the planet, as they are to those in the USA.
Many in the USA are so thoroughly self-absorbed they are blatantly ignorant of issues going on in other parts of the world. We are hardly aware of what’s happening in our own country, let alone being global citizens, and educating ourselves on what happens in other parts of the world.
I’m not excluding myself from any of this. Until this was pointed out to me, I was fairly unaware. I haven’t made nearly as much progress on this front as I might like, but I’m paying attention, learning, working to shift my inputs and adjust my foci, and that’s a step.
Here’s what I beleive:
The Unites States being centered by it’s citizens, and the world, is a symptom of white supremacy and unhealthy, violent, power dynamics. In other words, white supremacy is the same as American supremacy.
Here’s what I stand for:
I believe in the global family, and I endeavor to be more curious about people, regions, countries, continents which are not my own. I stand for the love of all humans – not just those in the USA. While, of course, I’ll be concerned about what’s happening in the USA, because I live here, I must not allow my interest or concern to stop there. I will take an active interest in cultures, governments, arts, environments, areas of challenge, and occurrences of blessings in places outside of the USA. I stand for centering other nations, other people, other cultures, other concerns, outside those of the USA.
There’s a lot of talk in heart-centered business circles that paint capitalism as a toxic cancer on the planet. I don’t necessarily disagree. However, as I mentioned in a previous section, what I find equally problematic and absent are solid ideas of a system that can replace this system with something more healthy.
I don’t know how you are, but for me, I need to simplify the definition of capitalism, so I can really wrap my head around it. What I understand it to mean is that, basically, instead of having the government own and distribute everything to it’s citizens, that is left up to individuals. (And in many cases, Corporations are viewed as “individuals.”)
I support this idea. I believe government has a role, and being in charge of every aspect of our lives is not it.
While some governments on this planet have some degree of representation of the people’s will, many do not. Yet, even in countries where the general populous has some representation, often this is massively corrupted by large companies who influence government to end the legislation which supports their growing profits – usually to the exclusion of those most in need, or most vulnerable. And in some countries, it’s the will of just a small group, or even one individual who is calling the shots for everyone. Clearly, this is not the solution.
The entire system of capitalism itself is designed to incent behavior that pools wealth with a small group, instead of distributing wealth broadly. So this is systemic. But systems don’t mysteriously appear… they’re created by humans. And that leads us to the real solution.
The real solution requires all humans to adjust the orientation of our hearts so we can shift to a kindness-based economy. This perspective may be radical, and yet we are truly only one decision from this becoming a reality. Simply put, we are using the wrong form of capital.
Right now, the capital in Capitalism, is money. The whole system is based on accumulating monetary wealth. And those who have power and privilege are able to use this system to accumulate financial wealth. Of course, this leaves the vast majority out in the cold, struggling, with little hope of ever breaking through. Even many with privilege get stuck and stay stuck.
The solution, in my estimation, is changing the capital. Instead of money, our currency ought to be kindness and love, good citizenry and contribution. The “wealthiest” among us ought to be the ones who are the most kind to others, and those who contribute to the betterment of society. Folks like healthcare workers, moms, cleaners, and teachers.
If our capital wasn’t printed on paper, but was instead a record of our good deeds towards others, then we solve many of our problems straight away.
I understand this would require a complete collapse of our global economic structure, reprioritization of global values, and rebuilding of a new world. But we’re up for a challenge right?
And… while we’re working on that…
Here we are, living in a world where the capital of capitalism is money. So, how do we start here, now?
There’s a popular term these days called “conscious capitalism.” This term, and it’s associated movement, believes it can transform capitalism into something benevolent, yet operate within a system which is built to dis-incentivize the exact behaviors they recommend. Don’t get me wrong… I’m not bashing conscious capitalism – it’s a wonderful step forward. We must, however, not lose sight of the fact that in order to truly change capitalism to benefit all, it has to work for all – and conscious capitalism still misses the mark.
And, this is where you and I come in… the small and micro-business owner. Now, we’re working within the same system, however, we don’t generally have stake-holders, outside of our clients and customers. We have complete free choice and are not bound to the desires of a group of other humans whose motives and values may not align with ours.
This is why I believe small business is so critically important to the healing of the planet. We can work outside the system in ways big companies can not. We can make decisions that may not bring us tremendous wealth, but that benefits society. We can choose to do business in ways that reflect and radiate love and kindness into the world, even when that doesn’t quite match the latest and greatest marketing recommendations.
As small business owners, we have the power to do business that heals and supports us sufficiently, while simultaneously healing and supporting our communities. We have the opportunity to actually implement the ideas of conscious capitalism without all the entanglements of the corporate systems that incent behaviors that are not conscious.
It’s definitely not an easy road, and it’s a huge responsibility. Just think about the ripple effect of how, if you run your business focused on love and kindness as the cornerstone of your capital, how you’re helping to change the world. How you run your business makes a difference, and it’s your heart, your business, your values, your ethical marketing, your commitment to love and service that will help shift and revolutionize capitalism into something that works for all.
Since the topic of shame is a powerful one, I think it’s important to clearly define what shame is and what shame is not – at least as far as I understand it to be.
I’ll share my understanding of several different words which might mistakenly used interchangeably yet have very different meanings.
Shame is a belief or judgement about a person or the self, that they are fundamentally bad, and unworthy of love and belonging.
Guilt is a belief or judgment about a person’s, or one’s own, behavior.
To illustrate, let’s say Johnny failed a test. Shame would say, “I’m so dumb!” Guilt would say, “I should have studied harder” One focuses on the fundamental beingness of Johnny, proclaiming what he **is,** the other focuses on behavior, the action that Johnny took. Any time we undermine the inherent value of the human, instead of focusing on the behavior, we are shaming.
I believe shame is a toxic, violent, and unhealthy belief or judgment. As abhorrent as shame is on its own, weaponized shame is even worse. Weaponized shame is shame that is used to control, oppress, manipulate, or eliminate others. It’s used all the time by bullies, politicians and political parties, within religions, and throughout unhealthy systems such as patriarchy, white supremacy, and all the various forms of misogyny.
One of the most violent acts one human can inflict on another is to tell them that they should be ashamed. It’s one of the most cruel and savage acts of violence known to humankind, short of death. Dr. Rick Hanson shares it this way:
“Traditionally, [shame] was the most severe punishment short of death, which puts it in perspective.” – Dr. Rick Hanson
Source: Development of Shame Spectrum Feelings in Childhood
There is one micro-exception to shame being a universally toxic, violent, and unhealthy belief or judgment.
If the one experiencing shame is able to allow that shame to move through them, so that it doesn’t get stuck in their biology, becoming internalized, but instead it simply moves them directly into feeling remorse, then shame can be a useful and and healthy.
This is why I call this a “micro-exception.” It really isn’t an exception. Poison is still poison, even if someone has built up a resistance to it’s effects. I believe it’s more truthful to say, shame is always toxic, always violent, always unhealthy – and some people have built-in or developed immunity against it.
For those who have the practiced or inherent skill to do this, shame may not be a danger. However, for everyone else, shame is violence. And for those who have immunity to shame those who don’t have the same immunity is unsurprisingly, violent, toxic, and unhealthy behavior. Since it would be almost impossible to know someone else’s relationship with shame, it’s a tool best not used in any way, at any time, towards any other living being.
Aren’t Emotions Here to Help Us?
Over the years, I’ve come to the understanding that everything that we feel naturally arise within us is here to help us. It’s information meant to point us toward where our needs are either being met (traditionally described as “positive” emotions) and where our needs are not being met (“negative” emotion).
With this in mind, I’ve received the question, “So if all emotion is here to help us, and shame can arise naturally within us, wouldn’t that mean that shame is here to help us? Doesn’t this indicate that shame is indeed a healthy thing?”
My short answer: No.
Just as it would drive any human to madness if they were stuck in an orgasmic state, so too would they be if they were stuck in a state of shame.
As described in the previous section regarding the micro-exception… if shame isn’t something that gets stuck within you, then it’s not likely that it will do damage. It doesn’t mean that it’s not toxic.
If you observe the animal kingdom, shame is sometimes used in various ways to help keep the pack or tribe in submission, to keep a clear sense of leadership, and establish order. However, nowhere has it been indicated (that I’m aware of) that shame gets stuck and becomes chronic and toxic within individual animals. If a gorilla gets out of line and tries to mate with a female who has been chosen by the silverback, once the order is re-established, and the silverback’s dominance is re-set, the other gorilla doesn’t stay in a perpetual state of shame. No, the gorilla goes off and finds another gorilla that’s free to breed with. Done.
So, evolutionarily, shame had been used in a way that was useful, and it still is in some animals. For humans, the neurobiology of shame has become a toxic, violent, and unhealthy swamp.
For some additional perspective on this, I offer some links to several articles which delve deeper into this.
In some “heart-centered” circles whose leaders proclaim to be avid in their spiritual pursuance of love, have defended shame by accusing people like me of “shaming shame.”
I feel deep sadness seeing the behavior of any dear soul who claims to stand for love, defending shame. It further grieves me having not only seen shame used against others, but to have been on the receiving end of this worthy soul weaponizing shame against me.
Nevertheless, I can see and empathize with how they perceive that their accusations are true. I have no need to resist or defend against them. However, I am not ashamed, nor do I feel remorse.
You see, “shaming shame,” which, you could say I have done here in this article, is more accurately called “accountability.”
Here’s the difference…
What I am doing is holding those use would use shame as a weapon accountable for their behaviors. Same as I would do if someone wielded a knife to harm or control others. I would say, “That behavior is violent!” That’s exactly what I’m doing here. I am not saying **they** are violent, I am saying the use of shame (behavior) is violent.
An individual being held accountable for weaponizing shame and therefore feeling ashamed is not the same thing as shaming.
I learned this lesson from the renowned shame and vulnerability researcher, Brene Brown from a podcast she recorded on July 1, 2020. This episode of the **Unlocking Us** podcast is linked here:
Shame, Accountability and Social Justice – Brené on Shame and Accountability | Brené Brown
My notes on this podcast, direct from my own personal journal are in the section below.
I had a major insight just now, listening to Brene Browns Podcast. The insight was around shame.
In the podcast, she talks about research which looks at proneness… or whether were guilt.prone or shame.prone.
People who are Shame Prone, have a focus on their own unworthiness for love and belonging. When someone is shamed by others, what is discussed or used is language that points at the person.
Contrast that against people who are Guilt Prone and they tend to focus on problematic behaviors.
Take for example someone who fails a test. The shame prone person will think gosh… Im so stupid. While the guilt prone person will think Gosh… I should have studied harder.
There is such a clear difference.
She said that the more we can make distinctions between the two and avoid shaming the more were able to mitigate undesirable outcomes like addiction, depression, anxiety, violence. Guilt actually seems like a protective factor against these things.
We think that shaming is this great moral compass… that we can shame people into doing better. It’s not true. An example of this is in parenting… saying to a child… you’re a liar vs. you’re a good person who told a lie, and that behavior is never okay.
Guilt is healthy. Its helpful. It’s a positive, socially adaptive experience. Shame is violence and its influence is destructive.
Then, Brene went into what humiliation is. Researchers used to think that shame and humiliation was only one step away, and the distinction was the concept of deserving. An example: Lets say I call you stupid. Humiliation says I don’t deserve that. Shame believes its true.
New research is starting to link humiliation with violence.
Embarrassment… the hallmark of embarrassment is that we don’t feel alone. We dont feel that warm wash of …not good enough… We know other things… we know other people have done similar things and we know that it will pass.
Being held accountable for racism and feeling shame is not the same as being shamed.
SHAME IS NOT AN EFFECTIVE SOCIAL JUSTICE TOOL.
SHAME IS A TOOL OF OPPRESSION.
SHAME IS A TOOL OF WHITE SUPREMACY.
HUMILIATION AND BELITTLING ARE TOOLS OF INJUSTICE … THEY ARE NOT TOOLS OF JUSTICE.
Shame corrodes the belief that we can be better and do better and is much more likely to be the cause of destructive behaviors than be the cure.
Shame is inherently dehumanizing.
The Masters Tools will never dismantle the masters house. – Audra Lorde
Shame breeds violence. Shame begets more shame.
When someone holds us accountable for racism, pointing out what we say or what we do… thats not the same as being shamed for being a racist. Theres a huge difference between being shamed for being a racist, and feeling shame.
It’s my job to regulate my own emotions… to move through shame in a productive and healthy way.
What I believe in
I believe in accountability for behaviors. It’s okay, even important, to question behavior, and to push for change. It’s okay to resist systemic violence, racism, and other harmful and oppressive systems, via non-compliance, and other forms of demonstration. It is not, however, okay to weaponize shame to try and control or manipulate others into submission, obedience, or conformity.
On the point of shame, I once wrote an article of resistance in reply to an article someone else wrote which made the bold claim that there was such a thing as “healthy shame.“ They proceeded to say that healthy shame was called remorse. In my guest post (which is included in full below) I wrote that healthy shame is not called remorse. Remorse is remorse. There is no healthy shame. And I went on to denounce shame in all it’s forms.
This was written quite a few years ago, and my understanding on shame has developed and become more nuanced since then (as reflected above).
I share this article here, simply because it touched many people’s hearts, and helped relieve, soothe, and comfort many who were confused and suffering after having read an article written by a spiritual teacher that their toxic, violent, unhealthy shame was actually healthy. Whaaaaaaaat the f#*@?
Personally, I want to take a clear, public and passionate stand for my personal belief that:
******Shame is never healthy. It is toxic, poison, violent and destructive. All-ways.******
Why do I believe this to be true? I believe shame is inextricably linked to exactly what [was] shared in the article, “it is directed at a person’s essence, delivering the message, “You did the wrong thing because you are broken, your essence is bad, and you are unworthy of love or forgiveness.”
There are two parts to the message shared there:
1. You did the wrong thing.
2. You are broken, bad and unworthy of love or forgiveness.
Both of those parts are what make up the experience of shame. The toxic part can’t simply be magically removed and it still be called shame. Even in the statement itself there is a cause/effect (you did wrong *because* you are bad). I believe that, when dealing with the experience of shame, the two parts are inseparable, and therefore toxic.
Healthy shame is not remorse. Remorse is remorse. Two very different words and meanings – in definition, culturally, and in how they’re used.
Shame: I feel bad about what I did, and therefore I’m a bad person.
Remorse: I feel bad about what I did.
In your story, **REDACTED**, you didn’t experience the toxic aspect of shame. That is why what I believe you really experienced was remorse. Period. Not, “healthy shame.” Words matter to me, and I needed to make this point for myself.
I shudder at an article that espouses anything related to shame as healthy.
(It would feel incomplete for me to share that I actually think the title of the article is just a poor title. I don’t think the article was actually about shame at all, really. I think it was about, “The Healthy Role of Remorse in Business (& life). That’s how I translated the article in my own heart.)
And, I also want to share my personal take that shame was indeed not a part of what Kelly Diels posted. As Rachel said in a comment to your article, she simply stated facts. She acknowledged what people were doing. (I could impute or infer shame, but that’s my own personal journey.)
Her acknowledgements also became host to a dialogue that included shame and shaming as a part of it (in comments). There was inaction and silence (at least publicly) in response. Kelly posted on her wall just today, “Love is not: inaction, silence, complicity.” Certainly interesting to ponder.
That having been said, I also want to acknowledge that shame is here, it shows up, it can and often does present itself, usually in one of two ways:
1.) Personal, situational shame – this is when you have an experience and have a personal, internal sense of feeling ashamed. “I did this or that and, oh no, I’m a horrible person for having done that.” Hopefully, this thought quickly moves to remorse and turns into, “I feel so bad for having done that and I want to make amends.” The process is healthy. The healing is healthy. The shame itself is not. That’s why it’s so important to transform it into remorse – removing the toxic aspect of being disconnected from your innate goodness.
2.) Weaponized shame that comes from others, institutions and systems. This is the kind of shame that is especially violent and insidious. This kind of shame is utilized by those who abuse others, and is inherent within the systems of racism, classism, sexism, ageism, ableism, capitalism, white supremacy, etc.
It is **never** acceptable for one individual or any system to bring shame to another human. This is violent and abhorrent in my perception. (Yes, I’m using an absolute very intentionally.)
Regardless of how shame comes to you, it’s so incredibly important that it be faced – your heart held with love and compassion, so it can be healed as quickly as possible. Saying “shame is never healthy” doesn’t mean it ought to be bypassed, missed, hidden from or avoided. To heal anything, it must be faced. And since shame is so prevalent in this world, it’s important that we learn how to heal it, and facilitate the healing process, not adding to it by shaming others (directly or indirectly).
Shame can be a doorway to healing. I never want to be the one who builds the doorway of shame for another to have to heal from.
I have experienced deep shame for the vast majority of my life – from the moment I was born into this world, until just ten years ago, I lived in a swamp of shame. It’s who I was and how I came to know myself. It came from within, it came from my parents. It came from the cult I was raised in. It came from almost every “friend” I knew. I know it more intimately than I can even express.
I still live with shame every single day. I sleep under a blanket of shame and I walk with it as my companion every day. It’s always there whispering, “You are not enough; you are unworthy; you are broken.” *EVERY*day.
Shame is never healthy.
I know a lot of people who connect with [your company] who experience shame. I read it in their emails, listen to it on calls, and can feel it in their hearts.
I want to tell each of you that I understand. I really get how that feels. Shame *NEVER* feels like anything but how horribly unlovable and unworthy of goodness we are.
Please, please, please know that you are always lovable and worthy.
You don’t have to be anything other than who you are right this moment to be lovable and worthy.
Lots of people will shame you into thinking that if you don’t post something on Facebook, you’re somehow unworthy. Please don’t believe them – it’s not true. Trust me, once you post something on Facebook, they’ll shame you into doing something else. That’s not true either.
Please… Do all that you can to bring goodness into the world and help love triumph over hate. All-ways. And know, despite what anyone will tell you, that when you’re doing all you can in each moment – whatever that is – you are deserving and worthy of all the love available.
If you find ways that you could have done better, then allow yourself to feel remorse and an even deeper sense of grief, perhaps. This is healthy, and it is from this place that we can find the deeply rooted strength needed to grow and do more in a healthy way, that doesn’t hurt us or others.
If you’re feeling shame – I know it doesn’t feel healthy. That’s because it’s not. Don’t embrace it as such.
I view shame like chemotherapy. That shit’s toxic. And, you might come out cancer free on the other side, but there is no denying the poisonous and toxic effects – they take a toll too.
So if you’re feeling the burn of chemo-shame… as [the other person] shared in the article, “find your heart.” “Cherish your heart, and everyone’s heart, as the unbreakable, shining, and holy home of your pure essence that it is.” Your essential and inherent goodness, wholeness and worthiness is within you.
Even if you can’t connect to it, that’s okay too.
Rest in the fact that Oneness hasn’t given up on you. Neither have I.
In love and kindness,
As precious humans, we make mistakes. All the time. And since we’re social creatures, we often make mistakes in our relationships with each other. I believe it is of great importance that we understand how to sincerely and effectively apologize as a critical part of being in healthy relationships with others.
It’s always been a comfort to me, in my understanding of the Divine, that since mistakes are a part of life, so is mercy. Just like there would be no understanding of the light without the darkness, no understanding of the concept of here if there was no there, the fact that we make mistakes helps us understand where we have room to grow, learn, and ultimately remind us that we are not Source. Also, and perhaps most important, mistakes give us an opportunity to experience the gifts of forgiveness, mercy, compassion, and grace.
There are all kinds of apologies, and it can be helpful to recognize them. They each have significant trademarks to them which, if we want to offer sincere and effective apologies, we’ll want to avoid.
The Forced Apology
Perhaps you can remember, as I can, the times when either we or someone else shared an apology that we knew was forced. I especially remember this, personally, when I was a child, and for whatever reason, I was forced by a parent, teacher, or someone else in authority to apologize for something that I didn’t feel responsible for. A short, curt, “sorry!” comes out, and that’s all that’s given. Ugh. Saying the word in that state of being is so painful.
The Backhanded Apology
The hallmark of this apology is the word “you” anywhere in the apologetic statement. We’ve all experienced the apology where, after someone’s bad behavior, the person offers what sounds like a sincere apology, but then blames you for making the mistake. Like, if a kid hits another kid, and then says, “I’m sorry you got hurt.” Or, when one partner in a relationship says one thing but does another, and when that confuses you, they say, “I’m sorry you misunderstood what I said.” These days, when everyone is offended by something, and in some cases there is increasing accountability, such as in the #metoo movement, we might see the backhanded apology look like, “I apologize for having offended you.”
The Dismissive Apology
This apology includes the word “if.” When the word “if” enters an apology, what happens is that the harm, hurt, or damage done is being questioned, diminished, or dismissed. This one might sound like, “I’m sorry if I hurt you.” If you say “if,” you haven’t heard, received, and believed the person(s) to whom you’re apologizing. This is a subtle, but real form of violence.
The Recycled Apology
This one, for me, is the most insidious, and I’ve seen several who are masterfully gifted at using this apology. This happens when the person behaves in a way that hurts, offends, or has some undesired outcome, and they recognize the truth of the outcome and impact of their behavior. So, seeing the outcome, they are moved with sadness, guilt, or remorse, to sincerely apologize, and they do. Avoiding the pitfalls of the Forced, Backhanded, and Dismissive Apologies, they offer up a sincerely expressed apology which is focused on their behavior, and their feelings about the outcomes, and usually a commitment is made to not make the same mistake, and occasionally some effort to make amends are offered. But then… nothing changes. There is no corrective action taken. Perhaps the amends are made, but there is zero effort to learn, fix, or address what caused the mistake in the first place, and inevitably, the same mistake is repeated and the cycle starts over.
An Apologetic Journey
There’s lots of conditioning that goes into why apologizing is so difficult. As a cis-gender male, I know my own conditioning from that perspective mainly, only some of which is that we’re told it conveys weakness, submissiveness, and uncertainty. All of that can be especially dangerous when navigating for power, control, and a sense of belonging. Apologizing has been a complicated part of my upbringing.
Over the years, I’ve had a number of different mentors from which I’ve learned a great deal on a range of topics, from leadership to spirituality. And the views on apologizing have varied to an equally vast degree.
When I was growing up, I learned that apologizing early was a good defense mechanism against further punishment. I was also indoctrinated with the teaching that meekness and humility was reflected in an apology, and that these were qualities that God wanted to me to cultivate. I also developed shame through my childhood and adolescence, and so I became adept at taking on responsibility, not only for my own emotion and behaviors, but for others emotions as well. I was responsible for everything – which required me to apologize a LOT, because there were a lot of unhappy people around me. Not a fun situation. But I was good at it.
Later on, a different, more “new-age” approach taught me that I wasn’t responsible for anything outside of myself, and how other people were affected by my behavior was “their business,” not mine. And so, why would I ever need to apologize, because if someone had a negative reaction to what I did, that was about them, not about me.
Even more recently, a different approach was brought to me when it was observed that apologies were very natural and easy for me, and I offered them quite frequently – especially when people we were serving were unsatisfied. I was told that apologies weren’t needed because no mistake was made. Just because people were complaining didn’t mean that we did something that required an apology. So, instead, I was instructed to acknowledge and empathize with their experience, but offer no apology.
All that I’ve shared so far only scratches the surface, of course. There are a hundred other ways that apologies work, and don’t work. Far too much for me to outline here. However, my purpose is not to do a deep dive on all things related to apologies, but instead to share the principles of apologies that I believe in and stand for.
My Four Principles around Apologies
- Apologies are only sincere when remorse, not blame, is the motivating factor.
- Apologies primarily serve the one who is apologizing, not those being apologized to.
- Apologies are something offered with no expectations. Acceptance and forgiveness are not inherent and if needed, can be requested specifically.
- Apologies are just empty words, unless they are paired with change.
Let’s Talk About Blame and Remorse
Blame is different than responsibility and accountability. Let’s say that a comedian doing standup uses a word that is, by societal standards, offensive.
Responsibility says, “You used a word that is offensive.”
Accountability says, “Because you use that offensive word, I will no longer come to your shows.”
Blame says, “You made me so angry when you used that word.”
When used appropriately, responsibility and accountability are healthy and needed. Blame is rarely healthy, needed, or true. In most circumstances, blame is an abdication of our own sovereignty. Only in more extreme neglectful, abusive, or oppressive situations Is someone blame worthy. And that’s a huge distinction – blame **worthy**. No one is to blame for how we feel, or our experience of events. Someone would be blame worthy when they have a car accident while driving intoxicated, or for contributing to the existence of some circumstance or situation.
As it relates to apologies, it’s important that the one apologizing has taken responsibility (which can arise naturally within, or from externally being held accountable or responsible) therefore feels remorse, which is the essential quality from which an apology arises. If the person is apologizing simply because they are being blamed, or got caught, then it’s most likely that the apology is insincere.
Remorse is the key here. Remorse is a genuine feeling of sorrow and distress that arises from the realization that one’s behavior has had harmful consequences, regardless of intent.
The biggest challenge to arrive at a sincere apology is finding the quality of remorse.
Who is served by an apology?
I don’t often (if ever) hear discussions about who apologies actually serve. However, for me, it’s a really important principle to be aware of.
Typically, we have the one giving the apology (the giver), and the one to whom the apology is given (receiver). And in my experience and research, it’s almost always the receiver that is portrayed as the one who benefits from the apology. That’s not how I see it at all.
I believe that the one who benefits most from offering an apology is the one who is apologizing. Why?
When a truly sincere apology is offered, it is the result of a lot of work in the heart of the individual. They have to see the mistake, take responsibility for it, hold themselves accountable, process feelings of guilt, shame, fear, sadness, regret, etc. leading to remorse, find willingness and desire to make amends or repair, and then find the courage, humility, and compassion to articulate the apology. All of that is transformative. To get to that point is significant.
For the one receiving an apology – at the moment the apology is made – usually, all they are receiving are words. Sure, there’s energy, heart, and emotional transmission as well, but truthfully, little has changed for the one receiving the apology – a lot has changed for the one offering the apology. (More to come on this.)
Why do I find this distinction helpful?
Have you ever sincerely apologized to someone because of something you did that you genuinely felt awful about, and after you said you were sorry, they said, “Oh, that’s okay… no apology needed.”? How did that feel?
If you were truly feeling responsible for your own actions, and that was the source of the remorse prompting your apology, then it likely felt a bit like you were shut down. Your sincere expression was batted away, not received. It doesn’t feel good.
However, if we understand this principle that an apology primarily serves or benefits the one offering it, then we can accept it as offered, because it’s not as much for us, as it is for the one offering it.
So, if someone apologizes to you, whether you need it or not, take a moment to remember what’s here. You don’t have to be hurt, offended, or damaged to receive an apology. It’s not for you… it’s for them. Learn to accept apologies like the gifts they are. It’s helpful to learn how to receive graciously, and if you’re the one doing the apologizing, you’ll appreciate that all the work you did to get to the point of offering it wasn’t in vain. Instead, let the apology do the work it’s meant to simply by letting it be offered graciously.
It can still feel sometimes that if we didn’t need the apology, then it’s unfair to the one apologizing if we don’t let them know what our experience was. And, if that arises in you, one approach that I’ve seen work is saying something like, “I accept your apology with so much compassion. Thank you. I didn’t notice within me any need for your apology, but I do hear what’s alive in you related to the situation and I receive your apology with kindness.”
What about accepting and receiving apologies?
Most often, we assume that when an apology is offered, it only does it’s work if it’s received. As demonstrated clearly in the last subheading, that’s not true because the greatest benefit is gained by the one offering the apology.
One of my core principles as it relates to apologies is that the one giving the apology must do so freely, with no expectation that it be heard, listened to, received, or accepted. That’s not how gifts work. If you give something to someone, you give it, and that’s the end of the story. (If giving is done in a healthy way, of course.) Do not presume that because you offer an apology, that it will be received or accepted. Any expectations you have in this regard betray the sincerity with which you say you’re offering the apology.
Conversely, the one to whom the apology is given would also do well to be aware that there is no obligation to hear, receive, or accept an apology. If you decide to do any of those things when an apology is offered, you are receiving a gift, which is, in turn, a gift to the giver. In this way, you both can be blessed by the gift. However, rest assured, you are under no obligation.
If the apologizer notices a need in them to be heard, to be received, to have their apology accepted – which are all natural and sacred needs which may arise – then, and only then, you may wish to make a request to get your needs met. That might sound like a simple, “Would you be willing to accept my apology?”
And what about forgiveness? Well, that’s a bit more of a complicated topic than I can fit succinctly here. For now, if forgiveness is something that feels healthy to request or give, then by all means, do so.
Words are not the same as Change
As I mentioned in the section on *The Recycled Apology,* I have seen some individuals who are masterful at apologizing – they say all the right words, with all the right tone, and all the right empathy, and all the right contrition, and all the right remorse, and all the right commitment to not make the mistake again, and all the right willingness to make amends – but nothing actually changes.
I coined a quote about this cycle which says:
Your skillful ability to apologize does not excuse your bad behavior.
It’s not the most elegant quote, but it gets the idea across.
The fulcrum where an apology begins to benefit the receiver is when the one apologizing makes changes, takes actions, learns, and/or whose observable behavior shifts so as to avoid making the same mistake in the same way again.
The behavior of one person I worked with recently would be harmful to the team of people they led, and when the impact of their behavior was shown to be harmful, they would sincerely feel remorse and would quickly empathize and apologize. Sometimes amends were made to correct the harm in the moment, often by offering sympathy and comfort. And without exception, the skillful apologies were followed up with the excuse, “I just don’t know how to lead a team; I’ve never done this before.”
It will likely come as no surprise that nothing was done to learn, grow, change, or educate the ignorance, and so similar mistakes were made time and time again, and the cycle would repeat.
Especially for highly sensitive people, those who have trauma, those who experience chronic shame, or those who have strong needs for compassion, this cycle quickly becomes abusive, even violent (usually emotionally or psychologically). It’s the exact cycle that those who physically beat their partners use to continue their bad behavior.
So then, what does a real apology look like?
I outlined the basics in a previous section, and I want to make it more clear here. The following is what I generally hold myself to when it comes to apologizing, and I’ll admit… this is something I aspire towards, not something I have completely in hand:
- Take responsibility for the behavior, with no defense, blame, excuses.
- Articulate understanding and empathy of the consequences of the behavior.
- Share what arose within you, as you became aware of the outcome or impact of the behavior.
- Be clear about your commitment to make amends, your action plan for education, steps you will take to correct, change, fix, repair, or make up for the behavior, and how these things will prevent the same thing from happening.
Let’s use an example scenario where I didn’t show up for a client’s coaching call and see, in brief, what a sincere and effective apology might sound like:
I’m so sorry I wasn’t there for our call. It was my responsibility to be there, and I wasn’t. I understand that you being there on the conference line, awaiting my arrival caused you a great deal of stress, concern, and anger. It’s very clear how my failure to be there on time, as scheduled, was really hurtful to you. I hold that with such understanding and compassion. That’s not at all what I desired for you – but that is exactly what happened. I feel awful about it and am committed to make it up to you, and also to make some adjustments so it doesn’t happen ever again.
I’d like to offer you [X,Y, Z offer] to make up for my mistake. I know I can’t make up for what you experienced. And still, I would like to offer this to help repair things. Can you share how this feels for you?
Also, here are a few things I’m going to shift in my calendar, my alarm system, and backups to ensure that this doesn’t happen again.
1. [list specific change]
2. [list specific change]
3. [list specific change]
It may also be good to note here, that this kind of apology is most effective when you’re dealing with fairly significant issues, mistakes, and disruptions. The apology ought to be commensurate with the degree of harm experienced by the other party, or the intensity to which you’re experiencing remorse.
Even in the example I shared above – missing a client session – might only need a sincere apology, some context (assuming it was an unforeseen circumstance), and some reassurance it will not happen again.
Apologies are handed out like candy these days. I share this matter of principle because I want to use my apologies more skillfully, offering them when they can truly bring healing and change for the good of all.
Personal & Business Policies
Due to a wide variety of circumstances, sometimes you may find yourself unable to afford coaching or other services that you desire to take advantage of. It’s a tough spot to be in – one I’ve been very familiar with. It can feel uncomfortable, embarrassing, and hopeless.
Having a big, empathic heart, as I do, it’s easy for my heartstrings to be pulled when I hear various pleas for help and support. Over my many years in business, I’ve tried a variety of different strategies and techniques to facilitate meeting a variety of needs. Some have worked, others have not worked.
Two of the strategies that have definitely not worked are:
- Giving myself away.
- Trusting my own judgment about my capacity.
I’ve actually harmed numerous relationships using both of the strategies above.
There is one strategy, that, when I respect and follow it, has been completely and universally helpful. That strategy is setting a clear personal policy in place for how I will meet others needs for support at no charge, or at a discount, as well as meeting my desire to be generous, flexible, and considerate.
The key to this working is me respecting and honoring my strategy. I’m hopeful that putting it here, on this page, for the whole world to see, I will be more responsible and accountable.
For some time now, I’ve had a policy in place to allow two endowments or scholarships per year. For me, an endowment is an agreement between me and an individual to provide my coaching services at a discounted rate, or at no charge, for a period of time.
Each endowment lasts for 6 months and can be renewed continually if both the client and I agree that it makes sense to continue. The continuation can go on as-is, or the terms of the endowment can be renegotiated every six months.
As of September 2020, I have four endowments active in my practice. I believe one will be ending soon, but that still leaves me with one over policy. The other three have been working with me for quite some time and I don’t have any estimate when those endowments might complete. I will post here if/when an endowment comes available.
As a part of my policy, it’s important to me that those I prioritize for endowments are:
- Black, brown, and indigenous women and men
- Single mothers
- Trans women and men, as well as others in the LGBTQIA+ community
How to Apply for an Endowment
Over the years, I’ve found that keeping the Endowment Request online brings a lot of requests that I’m unable to fulfill. So, to help support my experience with this, when I have an opening for an Endowment, I place the application here. If you do not see an application directly below this section, that means I currently don’t have any endowments available.
Due to social networking becoming such an important part of many of our everyday lives, and the fact that I’m connected to many, many people around the planet, I get a plethora of requests to connect online.
I always welcome requests, however, I do have a clear policy when it comes to requests for friends, follows, page likes, group likes, joining groups, changing cover photos or profile images, joining hashtag promotions, etc.
While I welcome and even encourage requests, my policy is to decline all such requests as my default.
This does not mean that I actually decline all requests. There are always exceptions and extenuating circumstances. However, the vast majority of the time, I will decline. (This is especially true on everything Facebook.)
Why? Aren’t I being quite unfriendly?
I certainly understand that it may feel that way. I wish there was another way around this conundrum. What I can assure you of, however, is that it’s not a personal thing. This is a default policy – not something I created in response to your personal friend request.
Having a policy that is a standard decline, relieves me of the stress and anxiety I otherwise experience as I try to thinking it through, discern if it’s something that works for me, and having to navigate the potentially rocky road of following through on a request, conveying unworthiness, or that I’m disinterested and unsupportive. The stress relief for me is profound.
Just as we’re far more connected with friends, relatives, and various groups because of social media, we’re also much more aware of tragedy, difficulty, and needs for help and support.
Because of being in a global neighborhood together, we don’t just get requests from friends and family, we now see requests from a wide variety of organizations and people around the planet!
I have a personal policy in my business that I am happy to receive any and all invitations to donate money, services, and/or goods, etc. Happy to receive any and all requests.
My policy is this: my heart feels free and happy to pray, send good energy, thoughts, prayers, etc. As far as financial or service donations, etc., my response is and will always be “I lovingly decline.” If I choose to donate, or take other action, it would be as anonymous as I could make it.
Because I am willing to help in many different ways, and often do, it’s always okay to make requests. If you do, however, I will likely send you a loving decline, with a link to this section of my site, to help you understand why I am declining your offer. And, I may or may not participate anonymously. So, it never hurts to ask.
As I mentioned in one of my Principle sections above, one of the things I find manipulative and distasteful (possibly unethical) is when what should be regular human kindness is leveraged by a business as a part of their marketing or business messaging strategy. If I donate to Tracy’s fund, and then talk about it in my newsletter, as a thing I’ve done, and right below that, there is an offer I’m making – to me, it’s using Tracy’s illness to make me money? That just doesn’t sit right with my heart. Even if I don’t make a direct connection, just having it in the same space feels manipulative and slimy to me.
I would rather decline your invitation directly, and then donate anonymously, if I choose. This way, I do it for no other reason than because my heart was motivated, and doing the act in and of itself is the reward. Nothing more needs to be squeezed out of it.
If I feel strongly enough about Tracy’s fund that I want to share it, I’ll do it in some other channel that is not connected to something I’m selling.
Updated: September 22, 2020
Since email is such a critical communication tool, I want to share how I’m working with email, and/or how it might impact my reply to an email you recently sent to me. I’ve written this section to help me express what’s happening in my world, and help gently support healthy expectations which, hopefully, will contribute to stronger relationships and foster greater sustainability.
I appreciate any time you take to read this. I think it will be helpful.
The level of volume in my email is increasing steadily. I imagine that perhaps yours is too. In the past, I’ve been pretty determined to reply to every email (that’s not spam), and due to a variety of circumstances, including my health, I’m finding it harder and harder to keep up.
I’m in a pickle, because as much as it pains my heart to not reply, in order to maintain my health, I really can’t afford to reply like I have in the past. So, I need to shift my approach and what you’ll see below are a few things that I’m offering, practicing, thinking about, or encouraging:
Two Phrases for Everyone
No Reply Necessary (NRN) – this phrases is perfectly acceptable to include in an email, or even in your subject line. And, it’s not an order, but a request, basically giving the receiver permission to reply or not, with no need for concern.
Please Reply – This just let’s me know that you do wish for a reply so that I’m clear. Totally fine. I will do so as soon as I’m humanly able.
Anyone is free to use these phrases in emails you send to me. You have blanket permission to use in any way that befits you.
For Current Clients (and those inquiring to become clients)
I will always reply to your emails, unless you explicitly say NRN in your email. I prioritize your emails. And, if what you need is urgent, it’s especially helpful if you let me know that.
If You Reply to a Heart Note
Of all the many emails I receive, your notes are some of my most cherished. Please keep sending them. They mean so much to me. I will try my best to reply but sometimes it can take weeks, and sometimes I just wont be able to. Please know, regardless, I read every one, and appreciate every bit of feedback you share with me. (Not sure what Heart Notes are? Sign up here.)
Friends, Loved One(s), Close Business Associates
I’m guessing we know each other well enough that I’ll know when I can be brief or not. Please continue to ping me if you haven’t heard back from me in a few business days. Otherwise, i promise I’ll be getting back to you just ASAIPC – I thank you for your patience.
If you’re emailing me and we are not acquainted
Please be clear in your email about what you are needing, offering, sharing, etc. If/how you’d like me to respond, and if there’s a deadline or preference on when I reply. I can’t promise anything, but we’ll see. I’ll do my best, if what I’m reading sounds like it could be mutually beneficial. If you are trying to sell me on your services, please do not send more than one email. I rarely “miss” an email so you don’t need to follow-up five times. If you do, I guarantee it’s a waste of both of our time. If I’m interested, I’ll follow-up – promise.
Thank you for reading if you got this far. If you have questions, please ask. I’m also welcome to feedback on this message.
I appreciate you.
The more nuanced answer is this…
I was recently asked via email if it was okay to share course material from a course I did years ago, which I’m no longer actively teaching. The full question was, “I mentioned your…[course]… and someone was interested. Where can I point them? Or do you mind if I share with them your material?”
Here is the substance of my reply, which is what I’d say to any kind-hearted person:
Thank you so much for asking, instead of simply sharing it. It’s likely I would never know that you did… and so, for me, you asking speaks to your heart and character and integrity.
Here’s where I land with this topic… and it’s nuanced, so please bear with me… this is part me processing out loud, because I’m an external processor, and to try to be clear, so you can see my heart. This is in no way intended to be a soapbox or Ted Talk. LOL
As a business owner, I always appreciate being compensated for my labor.
AND… As a human being first and foremost, and keeping in mind the pools of classism, patriarchy, white supremacy, and privilege I swim within, I always appreciate it when helpful things are not kept behind protected gates where people without resources are unable to access them. How do I harmonize all of this together? I’m not sure I’ve completely figured it out yet.
Here’s what I am practicing: Lately, I have been making it a practice to encourage free distribution of certain things from my business, without expectations of anything in return, but inviting financial support or contribution, if the person receiving my material is so inclined.
An example of inviting financial support is the Heart Notes Tip Jar. I also have an inconspicuous invitation to support my work in the footer of my website, center section, which says, “Please support my work” which you can see below. Also, in my more recent published work, I’ve been encouraging free distribution with accreditation. I’m not wanting to be too precious about it all, really. Just trying to keep myself supported while I share my gifts in the world – and prioritizing sharing my gifts over asking for support.
So, bottom line is this: Yes, you can share it. I trust you (and everyone) to share my work ethically, and in good faith as you deem appropriate for the receiver.
I take responsibility to articulate clearly if there are any parts of my work which I do not want redistributed. If that’s the case, I take responsibility to make that clear.
As a white, cis-gender male, I relent on being a gatekeeper of who is and who is not deserving of resources. I surrender that power freely and willingly – because it was never meant for me to have or hold.
It was a simple question… and, as per usual, I have to attend to all the nuance. (ha ha… thanks neurodivergence!)
Additional information is available on the following pages: Ethics Statement, Accessibility Statement, Privacy & Security Policy.