Did you every encounter someone who is a bit of a coward? Typically, he or she doesn’t dare to speak up or act when facing danger, opposition or threat.
Now, did you ever encounter someone who is totally reckless and unconcerned about the consequences of his or her actions?
Courage is the middle between these 2 extremes.
A person is neither too much of a coward, nor too reckless. In stead, he is courageous. He has learnt to find a balance between these two extremes.
This person, Aristotle argues, will be a virtuous and happy person . He is at balance. He has found the the Golden Mean.
I must think of this ancient principle a lot these days
In a society where non-stop stimulation is widely available, I see a lot of people suffering to apply the rule.
People either succumb in the extreme of excess, which can take form in the accumulation of wealth, food, drugs, alcohol OR descend into deficiency, like inadequate attention to education, healthy sport activities or intellectual pursuits.
One of the examples that strikes me the most is the tremendous imbalance between consuming and producing. Way too many people consume television, media, news, etc. in stead of producing things themselves. While relevant consumption is important, this imbalance is striking and causes a lot of frustration amongst people who don’t seem to find a way to produce valuable things.
Other example: spending money. Holding on to all of your money and not give out a penny comes across as being stingy and penurious, while spending too much of it as a prodigality.
In fact, the examples are countless. Think of binge-eating and drinking, getting sleep, etc.
Aristotle recommends moderation.
We all know too much alcohol will cause a hangover. We all know sleeping only 3–4 hours will harm our body and health. We all know that too much sunlight will give us a sunburn.
Still, people keep falling into this trap time after time.
But what is it that makes living in excess or deficiency so tempting?
Aristotle argues that people who don’t respect the Golden Mean principle think more about short-term gratification. Maintaining a relativity of balance requires willpower and long-term thinking abilities.
I think this ancient principle is still very powerful. Our current world bombards us with temptations, either causing us to over-consume or stay in our shelves out of fear and anxiety.
Finding that balance is a very important aspect of our well-being. I even think it’s crucial in building a healthy self-esteem. Balancing your desires will allow you to strengthen your willpower muscles and keep you focused on your long-term goals.
Cultivating balance throughout our lives is one of the most difficult challenges we face. It’s easy to get carried away with certain things and let them dominate them our lives.
But by doing so, we open ourselves up to falling down in other areas of our lives.
We cannot expect to go on a two-day bender and show up for work in a day’s time as nothing happened.
It doesn’t work that way.
This is a road to ruin. If we push too much in one direction, we will lose all sense of ourselves, crash and burn.
Balance is important to keep us grounded and on the straight and narrow. Too much of anything is bad, even if it is good in small doses.
Too much reading and mental activity will be devoid of physical fitness. Too much exercise and not enough rest, and we will wear ourselves out. Too much work and we will become dull and boring in social situations.
The key is to maintain a balance among all of your pursuits and your daily activities.
By being balanced, we are in full controls of our faculties and able to perform to the best of our ability.
Balance is delicate, if we stray over the edge too much, we risk losing it all.
As Aristotle said:
“Moderation in all things.”