Why Paradox is Essential Now: How to Be Free at Last

Holly Woods
4 min readJan 18, 2022


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This article is the first in a series in response to the current state of the world, in which many of us are feeling more lost than ever. And yet, the clarity we need to navigate wisely into the future is not only possible. It is also compelling and radically hopeful. Life itself is a series of (mis)adventures to help us become healed and whole, and thus live into our potential.

Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to become who you’re meant to be. On purpose.

One of the most inspired humans to walk the planet, Dr. Martin Luther King was known for his non-violent response to the hatred, violence and inequities spewed upon brown-skinned people.

King called for Agape Love, a fierce brotherly love of “understanding, creative, receptive good will for all men. ‘’

His rallying cry defied all rational logic of the day, when justice of the white man’s laws was metered without uniformity, and equity for the black man was only found in rebellion against them.

Certainly his novel approach was a monumental paradox of the day.

King’s explanation of Agape Love concluded that,

We rise to the position of loving the person who does the evil deed while hating the deed he does.

You likely remember King’s assassination (and the assassination of Malcom X a few years earlier) fueled the growth of the Black Power movement and the militant Black Panther party, countering the malignant violence already present among the institutional powers.

I don’t want to pretend to touch this racial torch with any words of wisdom. Revenge certainly seemed warranted. And yet…

Hate begets hate.

I only know that then, like now…

We rise to the height equal to the breadth of our perception.

We can only understand that which we can see and experience.

We must do better.

Be better.

Lean in more.

Listen more closely.

Feel more deeply.

Love more fiercely.

So as to understand each other.

We must live beyond our narrow views and proscribed beliefs and rigid customs and righteous cultural norms.

Agape Love.

King’s rallying cry still brings a flood of tears to my eyes for the young children perched in front of their black and white TV sets on orange shag carpet (or radios for those who had no TV) as we relived the horror of his and many other simultaneous deaths.

The death of civility.

The death of indifference.

The death of pretense.

The death of muted voices.

The Civil War we lived through then instilled in us this sense of normalcy for violence, yet also a new era of broad-spectrum activism and normalized outrage and empathy.


Paradox is just a dilemma of inherent protagonist tensions.

If 2020 was the Year of Awareness, and 2021 was the Year of Detachment…

Perhaps 2022 is the Year of Paradox.

Join me in this exploration of the types of paradox that we face now.

We need to develop a Both/And Toolkit to survive these times filled with peril and possibility.

Start here: The Paradox of Purpose #1: Finding Your Way Forward Even While Lost.

Then Here: The Paradox of Purpose #2: Loving the Questions, Living the Answers.

And more to come. This shortish series is my best take on the multiple paradoxes we’ll face this year.

I already have a sense of the type of year we’ll experience in 2023, if we do this one right.

We Know Better

There are no more excuses.

It’s not possible to pretend that we don’t see it all now.

Because we do.

With 24/7 global asynchronous media coverage spanning a million platforms, and an evolved humanity who dug deep during perhaps the most intensive phase in modern history, we know everything we’ve ever needed to know. And more.

We must expand and extend our awareness and perspective-taking to include those who don’t live in our shoes.

Empathy doesn’t need a kickstart. It needs a Code Red.

Go get a fire in your belly.

Learn something you didn’t know today to become a better person tomorrow.

I’m betting on the Power of Paradox. It’s the only way we’ll be free at last.

Other articles in this series can be found here:

The Paradox of Purpose #1: How to Find Your Way Forward Even While Lost

The Paradox of Purpose #2: Loving the Questions, Living the Answers

The Power of Paradox #3: Extracting Gold from Failure

About the Author

Dr. Holly Woods is the Author of the #1 Bestseller, The Golden Thread: Where to Find Purpose in the Stages of Your Life. Read it, you’ll never again think your life doesn’t matter.

Holly is a purpose activator. She believes that touching the spark of your soul lights you up so much that you alter the world just by being in it.

She is the creator/ innovator and dreamer behind the Purpose Flywheel™. She’s spent her life imagining a world where we could become who we’re meant to be so we can be a nuanced puzzle piece for our puzzling world.

Learn about Holly’s work at Emergence Institute.



Holly Woods

I guide leaders to navigate the uncertain future so they can enact world-changing visions, rooted in purpose and catalyzed by synchronicity,.