Charlie's Blog: Balance Is a Bad Word


Balance Is a Bad Word

What does balance really mean?

I knew a smoker who came to the realization that his cigarette habit was taking a toll on his health. I can't remember what the trigger for this realization was. Maybe a scan showed a spot on his lung, or he coughed up some blood. I don't know. But what he said to me next was what I do remember. He said he was going to cut back on his cigarette habit. He wasn't going to quit it. He was just going to step down from three packs a day to maybe a pack and a half. I was just unable to understand this. If you know something is killing you, why would you compromise with the threat?

I encounter this mentality a great deal with the vegan thing. People do get the message that their diet is bad, and animal products are unhealthy. But they never go 100% vegan. They might eat chicken or fish or go vegetarian with the cheese and eggs. Or, they will be some meathead who I have avalanched with overwhelming scientific data on the topic, so they counter with the trope that they believe in moderation and eating a "balanced diet." But what does this even mean?

I am with Aristotle and Aquinas that virtue is the mean between two vices. The problem with this Golden Mean thinking is that people think that all virtue or the means to achieving virtue must be in the middle. Consequently, they pursue the virtue in a half-assed way and call it "balance."

Balance in this sense is not the way to go. When it comes to rooting out vice and pursuing virtue, we must do this with ruthlessness. This is why Jesus told us to cut off our hands and gouge out our eyes if it would get us to Heaven. I do not think our Lord was speaking literally, but He certainly was giving us a vivid illustration of the ruthlessness we should have when it comes to improving ourselves and overcoming our sins.

When someone counsels balance, they are being weak and foolish. If you know something is bad, quit it. If you know something is good, pursue it wholeheartedly. Don't be lukewarm about it. Yes, people will call you an extremist or a fanatic. But they are doing this to assuage their own feelings of shame. Don't be afraid to be hard on yourself. And don't be afraid to tell your critics and detractors to go to Hell. Balance is a bad word.