We’re constantly barraged with advice to be “balanced.” Elements of Yoga and Buddhism call for an internal balance, and who can forget the yin-yang symbol depicting a flowing balance of light and dark. We’re constantly concerned about having a balanced diet, maintaining a healthy work-life balance, balancing our checkbook, and the balance of power in both houses of Congress. I can’t hang a picture frame on the wall without first considering placement and creating a visually aesthetic balance between the objects on the wall and the furniture in the room. Balance is all around us.
Certainly, this balance is pretty important. Our calorie intake should be more or less balanced with our energy output or we’ll soon discover big changes in our weight. We need to make sure we’re spending enough time away from work and with our families while still making a decent wage and meeting the obligations of our employment. If you want to avoid stiff penalties and bankruptcy, you definitely want to balance your checkbook, and every time a new law is passed or the President addresses the nation, we care about the balance of power in our government. It’s much too… imbalanced to not care about balance in our lives.
Yet balance isn’t the ultimate goal in many of life’s pursuits, and an emphasis on balance can actually create great imbalances. My wife and I have had various conversations about raising children now that we have one of our own, and I remember that our first discussions about discipline would play out as a balancing act as one of us would say something about being consistent with discipline and following through when our child repeats the same or similar bad behavior. Almost as soon as the first was done talking, the second would say something about picking and choosing our battles and not doling out punishment for every little thing that bothers us. These little “balancing acts” could begin with either position, and typically ended with some arguing (and then apologies). Conversation is one area where an emphasis on balance can quickly lead to some imbalances, especially as it relates to blogging.
If you have a strong desire for “fairness” and “justice,” you may find yourself involved in these balancing acts rather frequently in conversations, blog discussion, and other places where you can engage in debate. I’m sure you’ll find that these balancing acts can quickly devolve into an argument without much effort needed on your part. These needless arguments could be avoided rather easily by refraining from trying to balance another person’s views. But balancing can be a good thing too, so how do we know when to engage and when not to? Below I’d like to share some steps to take to make a determination on when balancing is advisable.
Finding Good Balance
There are a number of factors to weigh and consider before trying to add balance to a conversation. Here are just a few questions and suggestions to help you determine whether or not to participate in a “balancing act:”
1. What is the purpose of the position?
There’s a big difference between an article describing five things the author learned from the Letter to Philemon and an article arguing that the letter should be treated as an allegory. The first one is meant to encourage and build up. The second is meant to challenge and persuade.
2. Ask questions first
Before trying to correct your perceived imbalance, ask if the imbalance even exists. “Are you trying to say that…” can go a long way towards avoiding an argument.
3. Don’t try to balance unspoken “imbalances”
I’m pretty sure that most all of us, regardless of our theological positions, can affirm that “God is sovereign.” Yet it’s not difficult (or uncommon) for a comment stream to devolve into a debate about Calvinism because the author’s view of God’s sovereignty has been expressed before elsewhere. Yet if a particular view of God’s sovereignty isn’t pivotal to the author’s article, you do a disservice to the author and the discussion by trying to balance the author.
4. Don’t try to balance the truth
God is sovereign. Yeah, but man has freedom.
We need to support foreign missions. Yeah, but we need to support local missions too.
We need to plant new churches. Yeah, but we need to revitalize established churches too.
The “sinner’s prayer” has led to many false assurances. Yeah, but it’s not unbiblical to lead someone in a prayer.
If there’s one thing that we should remember before drafting up a response to something we feel is unbalanced, it’s that an affirmation of one thing does not equate to a denial of another. Sometimes it does, but that’s why we need to ask questions first (#2 above). But if the person is proclaiming truth A and hasn’t addressed truth B, respect the author’s focus and affirm truth A. If the author had wanted to write a broader piece, he would have.
When to Balance?
If anything, we should be cautious about trying to balance other people’s views and articles or else we may end up in needless debate and frustration. There are a lot of truths and untruths out there, and insisting that others affirm all the truths and deny all the untruths in a thousand words or less is a little… imbalanced. When someone affirms Truth A, let’s affirm it with him. When someone denies Untruth B, let’s deny it with him. Only when someone denies Truth A or affirms Untruth B should we try to “balance.” Blogging is a little more beneficial that way.