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Balancing Work and Family: Life's Juggling Act

by Life@Work

Balance: Knowing God. Managing a family. Being involved in church. Working for a company/organization. Making time for self.

All of these activities require a broad understanding of diverse but critical components, an intense focus on the specifics at hand, and an acute ability to prioritize and act in appropriate ways.

Much of the world describes this as balance. Other words might be more appropriate—integration or rhythm, for instance.

Many people work from an incorrect definition of balance, a hierarchical view that involves ranking priorities: God first, then family, church, work, and leisure. While some areas of our life, like God and family, are most important to us, a hierarchical view forces people to segment their lives and focus on one aspect at a time. A better understanding of balance is the ability to continually recognize and simultaneously juggle the multidimensional assignments and opportunities of life.

An assignment is something that we have no control over or that we cannot say "no" to without violating a scriptural command or principle. However, we can choose to accept or reject opportunities.

Ways to tell the difference between assignments and opportunities include prayer, meditation with God, Bible study, paying attention to life's circumstances, and examining how a new opportunity will impact other assignments.

Sticking to assignments often means accepting God's direction for our lives over selfish desires. Rather than shifting blame when we are out of balance, it is helpful to assess our current problems and what we've done about them. It's a lifestyle change to move from burnout to balance, and you have to count the cost.

Balance is not a static issue. It can change as circumstances change. This includes various seasons of life (e.g., marriage, new job, first child, first home, etc.).

The ability to recognize our state of balance or imbalance is crucial. People don't always know when they're out of balance—it's not instinctive or inherent. In fact, juggling isn't a skill people are born with either—it's an art that is learned.

The five dimensions of life that every follower of Christ is responsible for juggling are family, community, church, work, and self.

While we're called to be accountable to other believers, what balance looks like in our lives is different than others' lives—it is intensely personal and something for which we alone must answer.

Inside certain biblical boundaries, we are left to figure many things out on our own. Without a dynamic, growing relationship with Christ, we run the risk of falling victim to legalism or a non-Spirit-led self-sufficiency where we fool ourselves into thinking we have everything figured out and under control.

Companies that offer bonuses, stock options, prize trips, and pizza parties sometimes are compensating for the imbalance they demand—for work that is meaningless or working relationships that force the person to be less than he or she can be. Even in much-touted people-companies and organizations, workers can feel overwhelmed and out of balance.

Creating a work environment that promotes balanced living requires that companies place a strong emphasis on character and integrity, and that they treat people with respect and care for them as individuals.

Creating a home environment that promotes balanced living requires the marriage as the foundation of the family, and a clearly spelled out—even scheduled—understanding of each family's unique assignments and opportunities.

It might be impossible to integrate our lives through balance (which assumes the possibility of being in control), but we can live rhythmically—being flexible to the ebb and flow of how our assignments intersect each other. "The interesting thing between the managing of our time in our culture by schedule, as opposed to the ancient way of rhythm, is that you can destroy a schedule but you can't [destroy] a rhythm."—Eugene Peterson

The only balance you can maintain is to love God, then love your neighbor more than yourself. In this sense, then, balance is defined as having a right relationship with God, as you tackle the assignments he has given you.


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