In her latest single, “Blank Space,” Taylor Swift sings about her knowledge (or at least concern) that she will take things way too far with someone . A wise man, and I cannot remember exactly who at this point, one said that heresy is a matter of exaggeration. Also, recently, when I was looking up quotes from Dietrich Bonhoeffer  online, I found this particularly dark quote from 1932, even before his troubled WWII experiences: “…the blood of martyrs might once again be demanded, but this blood, if we really have the courage and loyalty to shed it, will not be innocent, shining like that of the first witnesses for the faith. On our blood lies heavy guilt, the guilt of the unprofitable servant who is cast into outer darkness .” In very different ways, all of these quotes relate to the same particular issue that we have to wrestle with in life, a question of tension or balance. Going too far in terms of our behavior leads to error, and going too far in terms of our theology leads to heresy, and our quest to clean our hands by righteous deeds is in vain, as we cannot balance the scales of our own life through our actions.
When I speak of balance, I do not think of mere compromise or meeting in the middle. When it comes to behavior, we can always justify to ourselves or to others any wickedness by pointing to some sort of even more wicked action that we presume to restrain ourselves from. Likewise, no matter how extreme our doctrinal or political worldview, we can always find (generally without any difficulty at all) people whose views are far more extreme than ours which makes us feel “moderate” in our own eyes. This is not balance, though, but merely seeking to triangulate so that we appear to be moderate and balanced without being so in reality. And yet it is this sort of technique that tends to be the most common both in seeing others as less extreme than they would appear at first as well as in making ourselves feel reasonable and principled. So long as there is someone on both sides of us, we feel balanced and moderate because in some way we have rejected some position as extreme on both sides.
The balance we seek in life mainly revolves around the sort of tensions that are inherent in living a life that even remotely approaches godliness. This tension may appear difficult when it comes to our life, but the analogies of this tension are a little easier to understand. Being the sort of person who is fond of music, I think of the balance we seek as being similar to being a member of a vocal or instrumental ensemble. A part that is too soft needs to be strengthened, and a part that is too loud needs to be restrained so that the whole piece can be in balance and be in harmony. This is not always an easy process, but it is essential if the music is to sound pleasing. In a similar way, balance in our lives may be difficult to attain because of the various pulls we deal with, but all the same it is essential to balance our lives if we are to live successfully, and this balance must involve both our internal balance as well as balanced relationships with others.
How do we achieve this balance? I wrestle with this question often. Some parts of achieving balance require self-knowledge, knowing our own drives, our own compulsions, and acting to encourage what is weaker than it needs to be and restraining what is far stronger than it needs to be. Some of it is external, in seeking to make friends who help us with our equilibrium and provide us with insight, and who we can encourage and build up as well. Sometimes we find greater balance in helping others, and sometimes we find it in accepting help from others. Often, though, we find it in unusual and sometimes even unwelcome ways. We often think that growing up or gaining authority makes us more free so that we can do what we want, but instead every step along the scale towards greater responsibility tends to make our lives more complicated by adding more concerns that must be balanced. Our success leads to more serious challenges, but also deeper appreciation of life, and deeper involvement with others. Yet if we even attempt virtue we will be caught up in concerns over balancing different concerns and different pulls, and it is this tension that tends to spur us on to greater achievement. May we live wisely, and manage to keep harmony and balance in our lives, as best as we are able.
 See, for example:
 Bethge, Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Biography, 1975, p 15
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