Crispell: Beware The 'Balanced Life'

Pastor: Passions are worth pursuing.

"Live a balanced life …"  

How many times have we heard this statement? It's one of those fundamental principles that we hear from pop psychology, religion, Monty Python (just kidding about that last one).

I totally disagree. If everyone lived a totally balanced life, there would be no great art or music or even athletics. The concert pianist, the gold medal winner at the Olympics, the artist whose paintings hang in the finest museums … none of them lived a balanced life.

Before I went into the ministry, I taught English for several years at a local private school. One of the students skated for the United States Figure Skating team but she was rarely in school. She was able to graduate through the assistance of many personal tutors. I remember grading her senior term paper on Chaucer and thinking, "I've have barely interacted with this student … I wonder who she really is? … she doesn't even know her classmates."

When she wasn't competing in some other country, her daily schedule went something like this: 

5 – 10 a.m.  Skating under the supervision of her coach.

11 a.m. to  2 p.m.   Tutoring

4 – 7 p.m.     Skating 

She had no time for a social life. Things like going to the mall were totally out of the question. Did she live a balanced life? Absolutely not … but she did go on to compete in the Olympics. 

I knew a dancer in a local ballet company who would spend six hours a day dancing and conditioning. Did she live a balanced life? Absolutely not. 

Instead of living a "balanced life," I would rather live a passionate life. I would rather commit myself – body, soul and spirit to something greater than myself. It may be a cause, a religion, a sport, art … even family.

Living a balanced life is just another way of saying, live a boring life … at least that's the way I see it. 

The Rev. Dr. Kevin B. Crispell is senior pastor of Elmwood Chapel, Wellesley, MA.


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