First, it's good to be out of balance in some areas and regarding some issues. For example, a person should never be concerned about being too wise or too opposed to genocide.
Though it's not always popular, sometimes the extreme is exactly where one needs to be. The other problem with the idea of moderation in everything is that it becomes very easy to confuse balance with dispassion, indifference and sitting on the fence. In other words, sometimes "balanced" people don't seem to truly care about anything.
That being said, balance and moderation have a great deal of merit. This is often true with regard to theological debates, contentious issues and moral dilemmas. In fact, the most common way to resolve a legal battle or financial dispute is by employing a mediator; someone who is hired to manage a conflict with an unbiased opinion and help to come up with a compromise that is mutually agreeable to all parties involved.
Balance is also important when it comes to managing life. People my age -- in the 25-35 bracket -- struggle with the balancing act. On the one hand, this is the best time for tenacity in career life. What a person does during this stage of life may very well decide one's potential for advancement, long- term job security and investment payoffs for the next several decades. We are made to believe that if we push hard in an unbalanced way toward our careers early on, things will eventually stabilize and pay bigger dividends later. If we fail to invest enough quality time on this end, our career possibilities are likely to be hindered.
On the other hand, many of us who are 25-35 have growing family responsibilities. Some are newly married, some have small children, some have aging parents and grandparents; and they need us to push hard for them too. If we fail to invest enough quality time on this end, our personal lives and the people we love most are likely to be hindered.
To be fair, these two things are not unrelated. There is a significant amount of crossover between accomplishing career goals and providing for ourselves and our loved ones. This, by the way, can easily become a justification for the "workaholic". Nevertheless, it is true; and many of us are convinced that we and our families "need" a whole lot more than we actually do. Therefore, we push even harder, spend more money and accumulate more stuff that will be useless and obsolete within years or even months. Some people are good at doing both, at least for awhile. These men and women consider themselves the equivalent of Nietzsche's übermensch, the ultimate men or women who channel some secret inner strength that does not heed healthy living and requires no sleep. No matter how big your tank may be, everyone who lives this way will eventually run out of gas.
The writer of Ecclesiastes talked about the importance of hard work as a young person: "Sow your seed in the morning, and at evening let your hands not be idle, for you do not know which will succeed, whether this or that, or whether both will do equally well" (Ecclesiastes 11:6, NIV). In the next few verses, however, he says that one's younger years are meant to be enjoyed because they are full of youthful mistakes and meaningless pursuit.
The Apostle Paul, on the other hand, said that failing to provide what is needed in one's household is even worse than failing to believe in Jesus: "But those who won't care for their relatives, especially those in their own household, have denied the true faith. Such people are worse than unbelievers" (1 Tim 5:8, NLT). The Bible itself teaches that both sides of this discussion are important.
There is an interesting phenomenon that is being discussed among many in the business world called "The One-Third Life Crisis." As opposed to a mid-life crisis, this is the feeling of unfulfillment and identity crisis that affects people aged 25-35. Many in the business world who identify with this struggle have been very successful at a young age and have accomplished their goals earlier than they thought. They now find themselves saying, "I've reached my goal. What's next? There has to be more than this!"
Others who are facing the One-Third Life Crisis have come to find out that the massive accumulation of stuff, even those that are called "assets," is also unfulfilling. Some of the most miserable people on the planet are rich, famous and superficially beautiful.
Unfortunately, many young adults in this situation try to solve this dilemma by changing jobs, buying more stuff, divorcing their spouse, or even abandoning their families. Many of these people will find out later that none of those options worked either; but the damage will already have been done.
So what is the answer and how does one solve the issue of balance? I had a wise professor who once told me, "Figure out where you want to end up, ultimately and work backwards to figure out how to get there." Many people are only ambitious to achieve short-term goals and they end up neglecting what I call ultimate goals. Ultimate goals require investments in things that will last after I'm gone. Learning to love the LORD more everyday. Spending myself on behalf of others. Giving my family my undivided attention. Leaving more to others than I hoard for myself. Ultimate things. As Paul said, "So we make it our goal to please Him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it" (2 Corinthians 5:9).
The answer is to set ultimate goals and invest your life into getting there. Short-term goals are a good challenge, but once they are achieved they are complete. They require nothing more. Ultimate goals have no expiration date. You can never put too much effort into them. You can never be too in love with God or invest too much in others.
-(Eric Costanzo is Minister of Community Ministries and Teaching Pastor at First Baptist Church in downtown Tulsa.)
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