The older I get, the more I strive for balance personally, and seek balance socially and politically. Balance is a desirable virtue. A balanced diet is essential for personal health. So is a balanced life, socially, and a balance of powers, politically, for communal health.

Yet balance is not an easy virtue to achieve, much less maintain. Life is not smooth, not fair, not just. We experience inevitable disappointments and inequities ourselves or judge the response of others to be harsh or insensitive. Our passions are aroused; our attitudes and actions become intense. Passion is not the issue — in fact passion is valuable, particularly in relation to correcting a wrong or addressing an injury — but becoming extreme in our positions, intransigent, unable and unwillingly to hear or consider another viewpoint, firm and fixed in our own prejudiced conclusions, is. Our equilibrium, our balance, our stability is lost and we become part of the problem, not the solution.

Dealing with conflict was a major part of my work, my ministry. Congregations became polarized and sides were drawn. In the language of faith, Christ was no longer the center of the community. The problem — or worse, the particular position or perspective of one side or the other — was central. Each saw themselves as benevolent and those with a different viewpoint or stance as malevolent; themselves as good and the other as bad. More often than not the conflict was simplified and summarized as a struggle between liberals and conservatives.

In truth, I think there is a fundamental difference between liberals and conservatives: liberals fear coercion and conservatives fear chaos. Beyond that, both have their virtues and both have their vices. When we lose our equilibrium we can’t, or don’t, recognize that fact and nothing constructive comes from our conversations or our conclusions.

The spectrum of virtues, variances and vices is something like this:

Liberal virtues: generosity, freedom, tolerance, relationships

Conservative virtues: frugality, responsibility, discipline, order

Liberal variances: laxity, extravagance, licentiousness, permissiveness, recklessness

Conservative variances: legalism, stinginess, rigidity, repression, fearfulness

Liberal vices: waste, chaos

Conservative vices: greed, coercion

Balance employs the better part of both ends of the liberal-conservative spectrum because balance is never a static state but a flexible one, always adjusting and adapting.

Never has equilibrium been more important personally and publicly. We are losing our balance politically, not only with an administration that flaunts the proper proportion of our legislative, judicial and executive branches, but also with legislators who seek not so much the common good as to blame the other party’s egotism and to tout their own party’s altruism. In so doing, democracy is diminished and our nation’s heart and soul is being tested. We are losing balance personally when we fail to recognize the virtue in the other and the vice in ourselves. In so doing our lives are embittered and enfeebled.

How’s your balance?

This column is sponsored by Cumberland Countians for Peace and Justice, an organization composed of representatives from various churches in the area, and dedicated by the local writers to the theme that the lion and the lamb can and must learn to live together and grow in their relationship toward one another to ensure a better world. Opinions expressed in “Lion and the Lamb” columns are not necessarily those of the Crossville Chronicle publisher, editor or staff. For more information, contact Emerson Abts, editor, at 277-5101.