Through the years I’ve come to learn a truth that has been a key part of who I am today. Life is a balancing act. That fact may be obvious to you, not much of an epiphany, but if people really took it to heart, I believe we’d see a steep decline in anger levels, poverty, communication issues and myriad other issues we see in society today.
I have not gone into study on yin and yang, but the sheer number of contrasts in life and mankind’s obsession with them is a clear sign that there are two sides to most issues. Light and dark. Love and hate. Black and white. Big and small. Sun and shade. Pacifism and violence. Poverty and prosperity. Youth and old age. Obsession and empathy. Sweet and salty. Does anyone else suddenly have the munchies for a chocolate dipped pretzel? But I digress…
My point is that there are so many opposites and contrasts. Each one you come across brings you face to face with a decision, will you ignore both, embrace both, or have a slight to marked preference on one or the other? More importantly, how will you react to each contrast life has in store?
Even if you aren’t conscious of it, almost every choice you make has two sides to it. Will you dress neatly or sloppily? Would you prefer to watch a movie that makes you laugh or cry? Turn the temperature up or down? These decisions may seem more or less superfluous, but isn’t the sum of them equal to our personality and lifestyle?
Are you starting to feel a little overwhelmed?
The good news is that in the vast majority of cases, there is not a right and wrong. Also, in many instances there is a spectrum, so you have more to choose from than “either” and “or”. While this is good news – that we don’t have to be totally polarized on every issue known to man, it can be difficult to make those in-between choices.
BUT THOSE BALANCED CHOICES TEND TO COMBINE THE STRENGTHS OF EITHER OPTION AND MINIMIZE THE WEAKNESSES OF BOTH.
You don’t believe me? Consider what you eat each day. Do you want to be healthy? Most would say yes. Do you want to enjoy the food you eat? Again, generally yes. For myself and reportedly for others, consistently good eating habits didn’t happen by totally neglecting junk food, at least not at first. It came from having a well-balanced diet and eating the less healthy options IN MODERATION. That is much more sustainable to going from over-indulgence in processed, sweetened and fatty foods to nothing but meat and veggies and fruits.
What about communication? We’re getting into deep waters here. Communication is the stuff of life, the stuff of relationships. I took a premarital course that labeled individuals as hedgehogs and rhinos. Hedgehogs rolled up in a ball and stuck out prickles when they got upset. Rhinos charged. The idea is that some suppress and hide what they feel while others vent and let off steam. But we shouldn’t be one or the other, rather find a balance between both.
If we constantly say whatever we think and air all our emotions, we are likely to hurt others’ feelings and drive them away. Whereas if we curl ourselves in an emotional ball, we and those close to us will be frustrated that they can’t understand us. We don’t let them. Hurts and anger will fester and most of our barbs will end up pricking us rather than the ones we are at odds with.
The key to good communication is knowing when to speak up and when to pipe down. (And of course how to speak up when you do) Just like the ocean, it’s an ebb and flow of information that neither drowns the other nor leaves them high and dry.
Do you see what I’m saying? So many problems crop up when someone decides there’s only one right way. Those individual decisions are what have caused the extremes in our world which are often repugnant to us.
Just a note, I am a Christian and I do believe there is right and wrong, however I try to avoid both legalism and license. That also is a balancing act. Some choices are black and white but more often than many would like to admit are a matter of personal conscience. Just a bit of clarification before you decide I’m totally morally ambiguous.
On that note, let’s talk about one more tight rope we all walk. On the one side is an I-don’t-care-what-anyone-thinks mentality. On the other is the prevalent I-need-to-be-liked-by-everyone mindset. Each has a positive aspect. It’s good not to be overly concerned about other’s opinions because we can’t please everybody, and on the other hand it’s good to care what others think because each person has wisdom to glean and also caring what others think will help you build rapport with them and gain a sense of camaraderie. On the flip side, if we don’t care what others think we will have few friends and only have our own life experience to guide us (as opposed to the combined experience of everyone whose opinions you value) and if we care too much then we will become miserable and make others miserable as we are driven to indecisiveness, clinginess and insecurity.
So each day, as you make those little decisions whose sum is your life, make them with a well-balanced mindset. But make them intentionally. I’m not advocating apathetic decision-making, but rather caring enough about the merits of each decision to incorporate a bit of either choice into your actions.