“The Need for Balance in Our Lives,” Liahona, Mar. 2000, 3
Many people today are concerned only with single interests, judging the merits of candidates and causes on the basis of those single issues. In the Church, some also have been concerned with one principle or one phase of the gospel over all others.
The wise Job said, “Let me be weighed in an even balance, that God may know mine integrity” (Job 31:6). As we employ an even balance, so also we shall be judged, for the measure by which we judge comes back to judge us.
The Savior taught:
“Judge not [unrighteously], that ye be not judged.
In recent years there seem to have been many whose lives have been spent protesting. Perhaps they have felt to do this because they have felt repressed or wished to bring about change or have acted out of selfish reasons, thinking that if they tore the house down they might end up with a shingle. Some protesters have said that they have done so in order to be free—free of traditions, free of morals, free of all of the confining standards of society, unrestrained by government or law. Some have been wildly self-indulgent. As Harry Emerson Fosdick (1878–1969) noted, they have “habits that bind them and diseases that curse them and blasted reputations that ruin them.”
Those who have succumbed to this kind of personal disaster often find that the balance in their lives becomes somewhat tilted and uneven. Many people expend far too much precious energy in protesting the rules. Since they did not make the rules, some feel that they should not be restricted by them. Others make a game of testing the fences to see what they can get away with. Some think that by breaking the rules they somehow become stronger or independent. Those who fight the rules spend much time and energy trying to express independence in their quest to find identity. And having traveled far down this road, they find that this is not the road to freedom but to slavery.
Talents, gifts of expression, and precious time are exhausted in swimming against too many tides. I have no hesitancy in suggesting that young men can learn to express themselves better through excellence in the classroom or on the playing field than in gangs or in immoral behavior. Young women can obtain a better identity and receive better notice through academic excellence and artistic expression than through immodesty of dress.
There are times when each of us has to have some gumption to take a stand as to what we wish to preserve or change in order to maintain our self-respect and not be as “a reed shaken with the wind” (Matt. 11:7). We need to take our great stands in life on moral issues and not kick against insignificant matters, appearing to be eccentric or unbalanced or immature. We lose much credibility and strength, and we risk being weighed on an uneven balance, when, Don Quixote–like, we go around “tilting windmills.”
For each of us, a transcendent blessing is available when we make the right moral choices. It is much easier for those who have a righteous balance to yield “to the enticings of the Holy Spirit” (Mosiah 3:19). Then we can leave behind the attributes of the natural man or woman and become someone much more enlightened. Alma counseled his brethren to “contend no more against the Holy Ghost” (Alma 34:38). The gifts of the Holy Ghost have special strengths for those who study and learn. “He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance” (John 14:26). Yes, “the Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion” (D&C 121:46).
How do these marvelous gifts of the Holy Ghost function? Elder Parley P. Pratt (1807–57) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles stated: “It quickens all the intellectual faculties; increases, enlarges, expands and purifies all the natural passions and affections; and adapts them, by the gift of wisdom, to their lawful use. … It inspires virtue, kindness, goodness, tenderness, gentleness and charity. It develops beauty of person, form and features. … It develops and invigorates all the faculties of the physical and intellectual man. It strengthens, invigorates, and gives tone to the nerves. In short, it is, as it were, marrow to the bone, joy to the heart, light to the eyes, music to the ears, and life to the whole being.” Persons enjoying these gifts have “light of their countenances,” and their presence is “a warm glow of pure gladness and sympathy.”1
An important part of the gospel message is that we not be too rigid: that we open our minds, develop some tolerance, and not be quick to render judgment. I learned when I was making my living in the legal arena that we do not always have all of the facts. There always seemed to be at least two sides to a question. Everything is not just black and white. The counsel of the Savior as He instructed His Twelve was, “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves” (Matt. 10:16).
It is not always easy to achieve appropriate balance. In addition to what we read in the newspapers, we can bring right into our homes in color most of the problems of an entire world. We also have our own personal ups and downs and challenges. The stresses of life are real and rather constant.
There is, however, a defense against adversity: humor. A thoughtful man said, “There is certainly no defence against adverse fortune which is, on the whole, so effectual as an habitual sense of humor.”2
For many years as I have blessed newborn children, including my own, I have blessed them with a sense of humor. I do this with the hope that it will help guard them against being too rigid, that they will have balance in their lives, and that situations and problems and difficulties will not be overdrawn.
Many years ago in one of the courtrooms of Utah, a divorce case was called for a hearing. One of the participating attorneys, indignant and incensed, took the witness stand to bring before the court the fact that just the night before, the husband and the wife had reconciled their differences. He urged that because of the reconciliation, his adversary was unprincipled, unfair, and unethical in now coming into court.
The judge turned to the other attorney and asked him if he were going to take the witness stand to refute the allegations against his character. The defamed attorney, a wise and experienced counselor, said: “Oh, no, your honor. I’m not going to take the witness stand. He might be able to prove all those allegations against me.” The courtroom broke into laughter, the tension was broken, and things quickly were put into proper place.
Thomas Carlyle (1795–1881) stated: “True humour springs not more from the head than from the heart; it is not contempt, its essence is love; it issues not in laughter, but in still smiles, which lie far deeper.”3 And Abraham Lincoln (1809–65) once said, “With the fearful strain that is on me night and day, if I did not laugh I should die.”4
Cultivating good humor may be helpful in finding our own identity. Young people who are trying to find out who they really are often have concerns as to their ability to meet and cope with the challenges that confront them and that lie ahead. They will find that it is easier to ride over the bumps and come quickly to their own identity if they cultivate the good humor that comes naturally. It is important that we all learn to laugh at ourselves.
An important dimension in learning to laugh at ourselves lies in not being afraid to make a mistake. When I was a bishop, we sought to have a ward choir. We had a good leader, Brother Anderson. However, he encouraged me to sing in the choir. I felt that as a measure of support for Brother Anderson and the others, I should try to sing with them, but things went from bad to worse.
Brother Anderson liked to invite the choir members to improve their talents by singing solos. One Sunday during choir practice he asked that I sing a small solo. I found it very difficult to turn him down in front of the choir, so during sacrament meeting, when the choir sang I tried to sing the solo. I was so frightened that the paper trembled in my hand, and I could hardly hold it. I felt embarrassed and humiliated. All of my mask of dignity was gone.
After the meeting, as I walked down the aisle, I was met with warm smiles and expressions of understanding and support. Someone said, “Bishop, it surely makes us feel good to see you scared.” That day the bishop became more human.
Our leaders have demonstrated that one can enjoy both faith and humor. It was said of President Heber C. Kimball (1801–68) that he prayed and conversed with God “as one man talketh with another” (Abr. 3:11). However, “on one occasion, while offering up an earnest appeal in behalf of certain of his fellow creatures, he startled the kneeling circle by bursting into a loud laugh in the very midst of his prayer. Quickly regaining his composure and solemn address, he remarked, apologetically: ‘Lord, it makes me laugh to pray about some people.’”5 This sense of humor was not lost on his grandson, President Spencer W. Kimball (1895–1985).
Another man who had a great sense of humor and enthusiasm was Elder LeGrand Richards (1886–1983) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. One day a stake president came to my office to see me. On the way out, he stopped to see Elder Richards, who would be coming to his stake in a week or two. He asked, “Brother Richards, how are you?” That great Apostle said: “Well, President, I will tell you. My body, the house I live in, is getting old and creaky.” Then he added, with all 95 years of his life testifying, “But the real LeGrand Richards is on fire.”
A good sense of humor will help us hone our talents. One of the talents that needs to be greatly magnified is sensitivity to others, and this involves reaching out and touching another heart. By learning not to be afraid ourselves, we are able to stir up kindred feelings for others. Under the cultivation of the Holy Ghost, our talents become greatly magnified.
Balance in large measure is knowing the things that can be changed, putting them in proper perspective, and recognizing the things that will not change. And balance also lies in attitude. May our attitude be one of achieving balance and wisdom and understanding in all that we do.
Maintaining a righteous balance in our lives is important for personal well-being.
When we make the right choices, it is much easier to yield “to the enticings of the Holy Spirit” (Mosiah 3:19), which will help us stay balanced.
In large measure, balance is knowing the things that can be changed and putting in proper perspective the things that will not change.
It is easier to ride the bumps of life if we cultivate a sense of humor and learn to laugh at ourselves.
Balance lies in our attitudes, which can be shaped by our righteous desires and by prayers to Heavenly Father.