Five attributes of balance

Feb 4, 2019

The answer to pressure and stress is not the death of the self from doing either too much or too little. It is life lived between the poles of too much and too little. It is life flavored by many things, not surfeited in any single thing that consumes our energies and dampens our appetite for the rest of life.

The spirituality of balance has five attributes: equilibrium, variety, self-awareness, re-creation, and an appreciation of the value of imperfection.

Equilibrium is the ability to know when to quit. When we find ourselves immersed in any one part of life—family, prayer, rest, education, play—we are no longer running our lives; our lives are running us. Something we need, something that is air and blood to our very beings, is being denied. Something inside of us is drying up and will surely come back to haunt us in years to come.

Variety is the gift of learning to savor life at every level. We go to the children’s baseball games because we love doing it, not because we feel we must do it. We take family time and play time and reading time and rest time because each of them makes us a fuller human being. Then we have new energy to take to our work rather than feeling our work drain energy out of the rest of our lives.

Self-awareness is the monitor of the heart that tells us when we’re too tired too often to be able to really enjoy life, to be our best selves for everyone around us. When the fatigue settles into the center of our souls, when we get up as tired as we were when we went to bed, when we only half-listen, half-read, half-smile, and half-care about anything anymore, we are inclining dangerously to one side. It is time to tilt heavily to the other.

Re-creation is the virtue that sends us off to cleanse the palate of our souls from the noxious residues of yesterday. It is that one single activity—the piano or the bowling team, the fishing boat or the woods, the workshop or the computer class—that makes us forget yesterday’s concerns and makes us young of soul again.

Imperfection is the gift that saves us from destroying ourselves in the name of some apotheosis of excellence that exists only in our own mind. It is the delusion of perfection that drives us to live so imperfectly. There are some things in life worth doing that are worth doing poorly.

Life without stress can be a very stagnant life. Stress is good or bad, holy or unholy, depending on how we cope with it, how we define it, how we allow it into our lives. But in the end, it has something to do with whether we turn our life into a living flame or burn it quickly down to burnt ash.

—from Welcome to the Wisdom of the World by Joan Chittister (Eerdmans)

Welcome to the Wisdom of the World by Joan Chittister

Welcome to the Wisdom of the World

The Benetvision Store offers many of Joan’s books for sale. Purchasing them through Benetvision directly supports Joan’s work. When the book isn’t available from Benetvision, Buy Book links directly to the publisher where your purchase can help keep the publishing marketplace more equitable.