I have heard you talk about the importance of living a balanced life by doing what you call “spinning the plates” (juggling faith, finances, physical health, social contributions and continued education/vocation). Is it possible to have that kind of focus on yourself and not become self-centered?
Yes, it is possible to live a balanced life without being self-centered. If you look at living a balanced life from the perspective of stewardship it becomes easier to see that reality.
The spinning plates are all gifts that we have received from God and we will be accountable for the way we manage each one.
As you point out, there is also a risk of taking a spinning plate beyond stewardship and into self-centeredness. It is a real risk but one we must take.
Remember Jesus’ parable of the servants who were left with their master’s talents in Matthew 25? The servant who buried his talent because of his lack of faith — his fear — was rebuked. The servant who took the greatest risks with his talent reaped the greatest return. In the end, his master awarded him the remaining talents from the unfaithful servant.
As I consider your question, I’m reminded of Archbishop Fulton Sheen. During the ’50s, he had one of the most popular television shows in America. He was truly a celebrity. He faithfully used his gift for preaching and storytelling even though the risk of pride and vainglory existed.
The archbishop openly shared his struggle with this danger but, instead of running away from his talents, he earnestly ran toward God for protection. He kept the mission of saving souls ahead of any personal desires.
In a similar way, you must not run from the spinning plates that bring you balance in life. Instead you should keep them all in play with Christ at the center of each one.
Truly an inordinate focus on finances can lead a person to materialism or even a false god but a Christ-focused approach to finances leads to tithing, charity and appropriate frugality.
Likewise, too much interest in physical health can turn into vanity — while a Christ-focused approach to health leads to more energy and vitality to serve your family, community and workplace.
In a similar way, a secular focus at work turns into a self-congratulatory career mindset whereas a Christ-centered focus at work becomes a vocation and a means to holiness.
Another way of looking at this is to ask what would happen if you neglected any of your spinning plates. Obviously neglecting any one of them will lead to sickness, stress and, eventually, personal disaster.
The spinning plates are really nothing more than the adult version of parental advice to children: Brush your teeth, don’t eat too much junk food, save your pennies, say your prayers, get your homework done, help your neighbor, be there for the family dinner.
When you spin the plates, spin prayerfully. Invite the Blessed Mother and Jesus into each activity. Recognize that they are both present for all that you do and honor them as you do it.
Dave Durand is online at DaveDurand.com.