I was watching a little boy in my neighborhood learning to ride his brand new bike. His father was helping him to find balance between the training wheels, but every time the little boy turned the wheel to come back the other way, he lost his balance and fell off to the right or left. The little boy started crying out of frustration and declared that he was giving up because it was too hard. I couldn’t help but think this was a great allegory. Life needs balance.
When I was in my late teens and early twenties, everything was black and white, right and wrong. Gray areas didn’t exist, and if they did, I put the situation aside not wanting to think about it. I like rules and I like when everyone follows them. With maturity, I realized that thinking in extremes very rarely reflected real life. Balance is necessary, and what is more important is knowing when balance is needed.
Politically, in the United States, we tend to focus on extremes. Democrats are far left and Republicans are far right. We like to label people because it takes away gray areas, and so we can assume we know who we are dealing with. If we look deeper, though, I know that most people have more balance in their beliefs. I know Democrats who are pro-life and I know Republicans who believe in gay rights. I’ve written before that very few people completely match the stereotypes that define their characteristics, yet we continue to label people and treat them according to our views of those labels. Labeling someone allows us to forget that they are a person. It takes away their humanity and makes it easier to treat them as a thing rather than another human.
In the United States, we are becoming more and more divided. People are allowing their extremism to cloud their judgment. They are holding close the label that they feel defines them and targeting people with labels different from their own. They are forgetting that we are more alike than we are different, and that we are all people first.
The only way to soothe this is through balance. We cannot embrace extremism in either direction. We always need to remember that we are interacting with other people, who just like us have their own opinions, feelings, experiences, and nuances. No one has the right to force their beliefs or way of life on someone else. There must be balance. Just like the little boy on his bike, if we lean too far, we will fall off and there will be nothing but frustration and tears.