Excess often has a delayed reaction. Think of those moments where you very slightly over indulge – a delicious Sunday roast in Shoreditch, finishing the chocolate eclairs at the park that the kids half-touched or downing the last of the milk because you’re going away on holiday.

Cue 30 minutes later or so and you’re normally regretting the decision you made. Because life is all about balance. That’s not to say you can’t rewrite the rules but you’d be a fool to think you can change basic principles.

Push the boundaries all you like but break them at your own peril.

If it sounds boring then maybe it’s because the environment around you has distorted and warped the idea of divine rhythm and healthy tension.

We glorify extreme characters, from the everyday superhero who sacrifices life and limb unnecessarily for the salvation of the world to the tech entrepreneur who puts everything out there to pursue his dreams.

And perhaps rightly so – for there are wonderful qualities in such characters.

Willingness to risk, courage to attempt the impossible and strength to overcome the hardest challenges. But we would do well to recall that culture paints with overly simple strokes. The Hollywood hero never seems to have kids who wake up in the middle of the night. We never see the dark loneliness and panic attacks of the CEO who continually pushes those away from him or her because of an addiction to work.

I have to smile at those who berate billionaires or those that culture deems ‘successful’ because it’s like no one sees the level of personal cost it requires. The cocktail of extreme riches can very easily become poisonous but you will be the first to drink of it. As a wise man once said (my own translation) – what the heck is the point of getting all this stuff if your soul dies in the process? Or if there’s no one to enjoy it with.

Welcome to the life of the rich and famous. You can spend your whole life in pursuit of wealth and status to find meaning and social standing, only to find that you can never tell if people love you just for you or just the benefits of you. Sounds like not fun. And it could be worse – you could only figure this out towards the end of your life.

But all things should be held in tension of course. Success and significance is part of that too.

Too much hard work will ruin your marriage (there really is no need to point out the dangers of laziness though).
Too much enthusiasm will lead you into disappointment (whilst none at all will not suffice either).
Too much sacrifice will hollow out your soul and build resentment and entitlement.
Too much resilience leaves us in danger of losing our human touch, our ability to feel and empathise.
Too much celebration without correction will lead to pride.
Too much self-love leads us to narcissism. But no love for yourself at all will make you insufferable (self-pity).

At all times, life is about tension and balance between two seeming opposites.

Grace requires truth. Compassion requires personal responsibility. And vision requires patience. Life is a paradox – but it is beautiful.

We’re finding ourselves in a time in society where extremism is more and more common. Social media exacerbates the echo chamber of certain points of view. And yet history teaches that great evil lurks in the extremes of every ideology whether political or religious. The far right gave us Hitler and the far left gave us Stalin. Even Christianity gave us the crusades. The list goes on.

The cure? To surround yourself by a true diversity of thought that holds you in healthy tension and accountability. The ability to rub shoulders with and connect to those who may differ in world view is paramount to living a healthy life, not just in 2020 but in every year to come.

Every person who is gifted with an extraordinary kindness needs a friend to tell them to stand up for themselves from time to time. And every hard-nosed gutsy individual needs a mate to tell them to stop being a <insert gentle expletive>. You get the point. Left to your own devices, you have the potential (I’m being kind) to become a nasty piece of work. As do I. As do all of us.

Surrounded in community is your best chance to become the sign and the wonder you were supposed to be.

Let me conclude with this thought. We see this principle working in so many different facets of the universe on both a micro and macro level. The human body for example has a certain internal pressure exerting itself which just so happens to be equal to the atmosphere pressure of the Earth (phew). Too little or too much and we’ve got some serious issues. You could do everything else right in your life (diet, fitness, mental health etc) and yet still fail in this one regard.

So too is how our own excess and extremism affects us. Let’s be kind to each other on the journey as we all navigate and wrestle with healthy balance and tension. The waves may be pulling us in all sorts of directions but we’re all trying to get to the same shore.

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