When I was a teenager, one of my fondest memories was the summer that I had no responsibilities and my best friend practically lived at our house. We’d stay up all night playing video games and sleep all day. There seemed to be no end to the fun.
But on occasion, my friend’s mother would call and tell him that he needed to come home. We would ask what was the reason for the end to our fun and I still remember to this day, she would say, “He needs balance.”
As a teen, I just thought this was a lame excuse to ruin our fun.
But as I have gotten older, I have changed my tune. What I thought was foolishness, was just wisdom I did not understand.
Now I understand that more is not always better. You can have too much of a good thing.
The most obvious example is water.
Not enough water and you will die of thirst.
Too much water and you will die from drowning.
“The wise man avoids all extremes.” 1
I think learning about balance and moderation is a large part of maturity. I imagine I’m probably just preaching to the choir for most adults. But I wanted to point out a phenomenon about passing on wisdom that seems to be lost in most memes and debates.
To find balance and wisdom, you often have to be aware of both extremes. But when people are passing on their wisdom or hard earned life lessons, they are usually just warning you of one extreme. And when people put this in meme form or a post on social media, it is just one part of a complicated puzzle, almost always eliciting arguments and derision because other people are looking at another piece.
Consider some quotes you may or may not have heard to illustrate this.
“The squeaky wheel gets the grease” 2
“The nail that sticks out gets hammered” 3
“Never, Never, Never Give Up” 4
“You have to know when to quit”
“Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you yourself will be just like him. “ 5
“Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes. “ 6
“Black Lives Matter”
“Blue Lives Matter”
Often times people find a problem with something and assume the opposite is right, but in most situations the truth is somewhere in the middle. No one is 100% right or 100% wrong. I have learned some very valuable insights from some cruel people, because the source of wisdom does not always determine the quality of wisdom.
As they say, “A broken clock is still right twice a day.”
With modern media’s polarized debates and short attention span, people do not take the time to incorporate the points of both sides. Instead, one of the new favorite past times is to shut people up. People think that finding a flaw in someone’s point, or pointing out something they missed is equivalent to winning an argument. But I say:
“Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.” 7
“It is good to grasp the one and not let go of the other.” 1
Perhaps even thinking of it as an argument with two opposing sides is problematic. I think we need less debates and more discussions.
“Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood “ 8
“We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.” 9
In my opinion, a good example of balance is a healthy two parent family. Often times you will see one parent being more compassionate while another parent is more authoritarian. Sometimes this can lead to arguments about parenting style, but when two people are able to respect what the other brings to the table, they usually do much better than either would alone. There are times when a child needs to be pushed, have consequences and allowed to fail. But there are also times when a child needs to be rescued and nurtured. Any one person is usually going to err on one side or the other and I have seen the devastating effects of both parenting styles in their extreme.
At the end of the day, figuring things out in life is tricky. There is no one right or wrong answer you can apply across the board. You can’t just take people’s advice at face value.
Sometimes you need to listen to hard truths:
“The wounds of a friend can be trusted” 10
and sometimes you have to be able to rise above what everyone else is telling you:
“What is right is not always popular and what is popular is not always right.” 11
You have to sort it out for yourself and find that balance and what applies in any given situation.
“Memes are easy, life is hard.” 12
It is easy to get offended or assume the worst in someone when they make a point, thinking they don’t see the whole picture. For instance, I know that this blog about wisdom may sound arrogant, but I am aware that I fall short and make mistakes all the time. I know that striving for balance is hard. Those truths don’t make balance any less valuable.
The best wisdom understands both sides and the need to incorporate them properly.
One of my favorite quotes is a major part of Alcoholics Anonymous, where people struggle daily with moderation:
“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference. “ 13
“You got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em, Know when to walk away and know when to run.“ 14
P.S. I like quotes.
Here is what I could come up with for sources:
1 – Ecclesiates 7:18
2 – American Proverb
3 – Japanese Proverb
4 – Winston Churchill
5 – Proverbs 26:4
6 – Proverbs 26:5
7 – German Proverb
8 – Steven Covey
9 – Epictetus
10 – Proverbs 27:6