Striving for Balance

balancing-rock

Photo Credit:  NPS/Neal Herbert

One thing that seems to be noticeably lacking in our society today is a sense of balance.  I know this is a very broad generalization, so if the shoe doesn’t fit… don’t take it personally.  I also admit that I’m a long way from achieving perfect balance in my life, so I’m not writing this out of a sense of superiority.

As a whole, American society seems to have a tendency to gravitate toward extremes.  Now the word “extreme” has been sorely abused lately, and “extremist” has been used as a bad name which applies to “anyone who doesn’t agree with me.”  When I say we tend to gravitate toward extremes, I mean that people frequently hold an all-or-nothing stance on many issues that don’t necessarily require such a stance.

A good example is the international refugee situation.  Now I really would like to avoid getting into a political discussion, because we’ve all got more productive things to do.  With that being said, the two positions that are getting any press are those who would like to open America’s borders to any and all who want to enter and those who would like to keep all refugees out—period.  The open borders crowd stresses that we should be compassionate toward those who are fleeing persecution or whose homes have been devastated by a brutal civil war.  I imagine that most Christians, regardless of their political leanings, would agree that compassion is a virtue that should be extended to those in need—even to those who are from different nations.  The closed borders crowd expresses concern about jihadists or even tacit supporters of shariah law entering the country as refugees.  Given the current social climate in Europe where frequent “terrorist” attacks are breeding fear that refugees will contribute to the violence, this concern is probably not entirely illegitimate.

I do wonder though, if perhaps we might not hit upon a solution that enables us to assist legitimate refugees while taking reasonable steps to minimize the risk of importing violent criminals and jihadists.  I’m not talking about compromise.  I’m talking about working together to find an intelligent way to help those that are in a dire situation and doing so in a way that gives us some assurance that we’re not flooding Mayberry with bloodthirsty barbarians.  One roadblock is that many Americans are unwilling to approach the issue with a sense of balance.  Another roadblock is that many Americans, when confronted with any given problem, default to the automatic response of “somebody ought to do something.”  This lack of personal engagement is a serious issue that deserves its own discussion.

The framers of the Constitution of the United States perceptively understood the need for balance in governance.  They anticipated the situation where a faction or factions might rashly gravitate toward an extreme and built a system of checks and balances into our government.  These checks and balances, by design, slow down the process of passing, enforcing, and changing laws when they are not universally accepted.  This is a good thing.  Americans for the last 15 or so years have been lamenting the inefficiency of Congress, complaining that Congress “won’t do their job.”  While our Congress certainly deserves its share of blame for the fraud, waste, and abuse it has perpetrated, we should recognize that the two polarized parties are a reflection of a polarized America.  Our system is working the way it is supposed to, in that policies that are favored by one extreme are generally (with a few notable exceptions) difficult to enact.  One of the polarized groups is always frustrated when a President from the other party pushes his legal limits and enacts policy without the benefit of Congressionally-passed legislation.  The same group, however, usually has no issue with a President from their party acting unilaterally to enact a policy with which they agree.

The derision of our Congress is increasing in inverse proportion to our desire for balance in governance.  Perhaps this is a large-scale manifestation of millions of people who don’t value personal balance very much.  While we won’t achieve perfect balance in this life, we should all be striving for personal balance.  Some key areas to which we should probably pay special attention are work and family, money and time, activity and rest, wisdom and compassion.

Back to the original problem of a lack of balance in American society.  We’ll never achieve anything resembling societal or governmental balance if most of us eschew a sense of personal balance.   Were we to opt for a sense of balance, and start working together to tackle some of the difficult issues facing our society, I’d bet that we could come up with some intelligent solutions.  Of course, this requires some personal buy-in as well, meaning we might need to be personally invested in working to achieve the desired outcome.

But it’s so much easier to say an emphatic “No!” or an equally emphatic, “Yes—as long as the government takes care of it.”

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