Embracing Conflict for Positive Change

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This past March, I was honored to share the EconoMe stage with a host of excellent speakers. Among them, Julien Saunders. 

I was blown away by his 10-minute talk, centered around the idea of embracing conflict. 

When we hear the words “embrace conflict” we might think of someone who’s itching to fight, who can’t wait to get in the ring and bash a few heads. But that’s not the case. To “embrace” is an act of love. An embrace is a hug, an act of compassion and caring. 

So how do we embrace conflict, especially right now, when “compassion and caring” aren’t the first two words we’d use to describe what we’re seeing on the news? 

I’ll let Julien tell you that. 

Julien and his wife Kiersten are the voices behind the popular personal finance blog rich & REGULAR, where their goal is to create more black millionaires. #YESPLEASE

The title of their blog challenges the assumption that the only path to wealth is to be “rich & famous.” As Julien and Kiersten show, it’s far better to be rich & REGULAR.

In his talk, Julien uses his background as a professional chef to show how, in the kitchen, we can combine opposing elements–oil and vinegar, for example–to create something new and delicious–a vinaigrette. Or we can apply intentional pressure–through heat–to change something tough into something tender. 

Essentially, when we embrace the conflict in our differences, we can produce something startlingly new, beautiful, and delicious. 

He goes even further with his metaphor, showing how, as a child of Jamaican immigrants growing up in Brooklyn, he learned to embrace the conflict in his Jamaican and American culture. And how throughout his entire life, he’s learned to embrace conflict to become the man he’s meant to be. 

My favorite line of his talk is: 

“When you embrace conflict, even if you don’t get the immediate and intended result, you come out the other side a better version of yourself.”

And of course, this all makes me think of the conflict we see today–racial injustice, pain, confusion, anger, feelings of helplessness. You don’t need me to tell you that we’re living in a world bubbling with conflict. 

But Julien’s challenge to all of us is this… how can we embrace it? 

How can we bring our love and compassion to this situation? 

How can we wrap our arms and hearts around this pain, apply intentional pressure, combine the opposing elements, and produce something new, tender, even… sweet? 

I don’t have answers to those questions. But I’m pondering them and my role in all of this. Because really, what Julien is pushing us to do is look at the conflict within ourselves. The intersection of ideas, beliefs, biases, and stereotypes. He’s challenging us to rethink the way we see the world and our place in it. 

So I’m taking his advice. I’m embracing the conflict within myself–the new awareness butting up against the old ideas and beliefs. It’s painful and it’s not easy. But it’s the only place real change can begin. 

Embracing conflict is an internal process. 

This is where healing begins. When we choose, intentionally, to embrace the tension, wrap our arms around the conflict inside us, and choose to believe that we can create something new and good out of it. 

I believe that, friends. And I hope you do, too. 

So I urge you… embrace the conflict inside yourself. Give it your love and compassion. See what you can create. I promise it will be something new, startlingly beautiful, perhaps even… sweet. 

Learn more about Julien and Kiersten here:

To embracing our conflicts, 


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