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Balancing Three Passions

How's your balance lately?  Mine has been a bit off.  I've put in extra hours the last few weeks and have felt more pressured than normal.  It's a blip, but it's got me noticing some things.

When I work too much:

  • I laugh less
  • I cram devotions into smaller spaces
  • I am less charitable in my mood
  • I'm actually less productive

As I was thinking through this in the last few weeks, I was reflecting on a talk I heard recently from Doris Kearns Goodwin.  She's a presidential biographer and was reflecting on a lesson she learned early on in life.  The lives lived best involve a passionate pursuit in three spheres: work, love and play. 

She contrasts Abraham Lincoln's life with Lyndon Johnson's.  Lincoln worked ambitiously, loved deeply and played hard.  Even in the midst of the civil war, he went to the theater about 100 nights each year.  Johnson, on the other hand, focused mostly on work.  And in his senior years realized he had lost deep relational connections with his family and had lost passion for anything recreational.  He died bitter and heartbroken.   You should hear the talk.

As much as we admire biblical heroes, I wonder if I mistakenly think they are heroes because they were all "work" all the time. That's not true.  David loved music and the arts.  Jesus apparently loved to celebrate and even go to parties (few people ever talk about this).  Both deeply pursued meaningful friendships and relationships. Maybe God's definition of a full life is bigger than mine.

Life needs to be a balanced, passionate pursuit.  I know my tendency is to want to work. 

What do you think of the three spheres Doris mentions?  Do you agree?  I find when that's true in my life, I'm at my best.  What do you think?


  1. laurie on November 3, 2008 at 9:51 pm

    Stephen – I think many of us fear the exposure and possible criticism from others – especially in work that is important to us. fear makes us weigh things time and again to come up with the perfect solution. One of the things Jesus said was to let today's worries be enough for today and tomorrow willlook after itself. Success in the world's view is not the same measure that God uses. His view is of our heart and our concern for others. When I get obsessive it helps to think "will this matter in an eternal sense?" All these tests along the way are his refining in us. Have a great day tomorrow!

  2. Stephen Volkmann on November 3, 2008 at 5:44 pm

    Laurie, you are correct. I am my own worst critic and I have a problem delegating. Perfection tends to delay results. which leads to stress.

    It seems almost silly now that I'm reflecting on this characteristic. My German doctrine puts perfection at the top of list. God is the only one who is perfect. He accepts us for who we are and he does not judge.

    Then, why are we afraid to be judged by others when we do our best work? If we make every effort to submit our work, then all the criticism should not destroy us when we know we are all not perfect.

    Laurie, you have a common clarity so important to a balanced life. Let's complete the work as best we can, in the time we have available, and accept the results are not perfection, but a progress to completion.

    Thanks, for your great insite.(I wonder if I'm the only one who struggles with this!)


  3. laurie on November 3, 2008 at 8:48 am

    Hi Stephen – I would bet the Salon owner has learned to delegate. As an owner I had to learn that I needed to give others a chance at accomplishing things for me. It not only encouraged them but gave me a chance to plan a bigger picture. The problem with perfection is that you are the only one you trust. You are probably your own worst critic. God is so generous with us.His plans are perfect. Those you can trust.Maybe he wants to show you a different perspective.

  4. Stephen Volkmann on October 31, 2008 at 1:19 pm

    A very successful man, who owns his own Salon franchise, said, "If you can't do it in 8 hours, you're doing it wrong".

    Even in today's world of over work, there has to be truth in this regardless.

    What do you think?

  5. Stephen Volkmann on October 31, 2008 at 1:16 pm


    I'm having a problem here. Probably because I'm doing it wrong.

    I continually work endless hours in attempt to accomplish my projects and tasks, to perfection. And in so doing, set the expectations way to high, and take too long to get the jobs done. Then, they are late; I'm guilty of not getting the task done on time, I put in more hours thinking that will help me make up for the problem. I sacrifice personal time for business.

    Next thing I know, I see people having fun, going on trips, leaving at 5, leaving with their friends, while I sit at my desk, by myself until the late hours of the night. It's a bad habit. I think the work has to be done. Time expectations aren't realistic and someone else has taken charge of my time.

    Then, I'm tired, exhausted, feeling cheated that I'm not enjoying my own time. Then I actually get "stupid". My brain slows down, it takes longer to get things done, I try harder and sacrifice sleep to make extra time. The more one works, the less productive. And without extra activities, there's no offset of energy.

    I've been programmed to think that I'm not allowed to enjoy my life. "You work now, enjoy your life when you retire". Absolutely rediculous. I know it's insane. Yet, I can't get myself out of the pattern.

    We are supposed to enjoy our lives. Make memories, not money.

    Am I the only one who does this?

    This has to be the biggest burden to my personal being. And if I don't "fix" it, change it, I'll end up very young sick man.

    Is there too much temptation in our lives that makes us think we have to get it all done in one day?

  6. laurie on October 30, 2008 at 9:34 am

    How much of our pursuit for balance is really a pursuit of some sort of perfection? Aren't we willing to let God speak that perfecting into our lives? If we could just step forward into our day with God's love in our hearts and engage with the day and be satisfied with whatever comes along. I think we think too hard which means we aren't trusting God's influence?

  7. Carey Nieuwhof on October 30, 2008 at 8:57 am

    Thanks for the notes Jay, Wendy and Kim and G and L.

    My problem is that I tend to pour my passion into one thing (work) and pursue play and love with less intensity. I've got to keep working on that. I love the idea of being fully alive and engaged in all fronts.

  8. jay hardwick on October 30, 2008 at 12:41 am

    great post, carey.

    feeling out of balanced myself lately – my results of life lived out of balanced are virtually the same as yours.

    love your insight on biblical heroes and their loves aside from "work."

    i appreciate you and your wisdom, carey!

  9. Wendy & Kim Creasey on October 29, 2008 at 12:08 pm

    I believe balance is key in making the most of life. Regular assessments as to what is most important and are we doing those things in our life is also critical. Different days or weeks might may get out of balance with one thing or another, but being aware of this and knowing we are working to get on track again keeps us from getting too frustrated. Keeping God in the centre of our life, along with stability, proper routines and good fun including others in this process makes for a good balance. Keep up the great work Connexus Team! Blessings

  10. G & L Sharp on October 29, 2008 at 10:31 am

    I totally agree with Doris. Balance is key. With balance you are rested, relaxed, and energized, all at the same time. When you balance those three areas of life you will give more and enjoy giving, you will pray more, you will absorb more, you will love more…

    Don't get me wrong, it's not easy to balance with so many demands on our lives… We just need to strip away the extras and focus on what we need to be the hands and feet of God and then you know what you have to do to work, play, and love. At least that's what I'm working on doing…

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