There are some ancient words that come back to me often as I strive to live and lead. They help me live in balance and wisdom. They help to make me a man of elevated perspective. These are those words: “The wise man avoids all extremes.”
I’m amazed at how often these words arise from the pages of history. The ancient Romans and Greeks pondered them. We have their writings as proof. King Solomon urged them upon us when he wrote, “The man who fears God avoids all extremes.” (Ecclesiastes 7:18, NIV) Indeed, most of the great leaders of the world expressed this maxim in some form.
It isn’t a sentiment intended to make us passionless and passive. It isn’t meant to constantly move us to the dull, cowardly middle of the road. It is meant to keep us from the error of excess. It is meant to make us effective rather than ever dissipating our energies and our reputations at the far edge of every issue and pursuit.
These words came back to me this past week when I heard about the shootings at that Colorado Planned Parenthood facility. I was grief-stricken and was all the more horrified when I read what some abortion opponents began posting online. Some of them celebrated the murders in Colorado as justified and even called for more of the same.
Now, I am as pro-life and anti-abortion as it is possible to be. I never forget that the lives of several thousand children are ended each day in this country through what I consider to be the scourge of abortion. In other words, I’m opposed to this form of unjust killing.
I am astonished, then, that some who oppose abortion as I do would celebrate murder in support of their—our—cause. This is only possible for those who insist on living at the extremes. It is only possible for people who have lost perspective, become inflamed, and who approach life only from the far angry edge.
You can’t effect change from there, though. You can’t lead. You don’t heal and repair. You merely throw flame from a distance. It damages your cause. It damages your soul. It damages your life before God and man.
Solomon was right. The man who fears God does avoid all extremes. I urge the same for you. If you are living at the extreme edge on some issue—or as a way of life—come back. If you aren’t, then take these words as warning for your future. We don’t want passivity and cowardice. We also don’t want the exhaustion and devastation that comes from living always on the fiery, furious cliff of every matter.
Live in balance. Live in perspective. Live full throttle and engaged. Remember that this isn’t the same as living at the bitter, raging edge.
Extremes are easy. They’re cheap. They don’t require wisdom or moral balance. They are more performance and theater than leadership and command. Your destined impact demands more of you.
That’s it. Have a good weekend. Oh, and I’m grateful for Notre Dame’s 10-2 season. Join me.