Holding the tension to find greater wholeness

Posted by Kenetha Stanton on

cartoon woman balancing on high wire while a hand holds the other end of the string
Image by ElisaRiva from Pixabay

When I was younger, I saw the world in stark black and white. It was comforting, especially for someone like me who loves order and organization, to be able to sort everything and everyone into binary categories: good or bad, love or hate, worthy or unworthy, strength or weakness, true or false, righteous or evil, us or them, and so on.

The older I get, the more categories blur.

I've discovered that my greatest weaknesses are just the flip sides of my greatest strengths. I can't separate them neatly into different categories because they are really the same thing seen in different light.

I've found all too often that good actions taken with the very best of intentions can have unintended negative consequences. The good and the bad are inseparable.

I've seen the truth told in ways that communicate what is effectively a lie through partial truths, missing contexts, and innuendo of falsehoods. How do you divide the true from the false in cases like that?

I've discovered that what may be the very best advice for one person facing a situation may be the very worst advice for someone else facing a similar situation because we are all different. One person may benefit from doing less and learning greater patience, while another may benefit from taking more action and doing less waiting.

I've realized that no matter how different someone is from me, they are still part of an "us" in one way or another. And no matter how much someone is like me, there are still ways that they are a strange "them" that I can't comprehend.

With each passing year, OR gets less and less useful to me, and BOTH/AND gets more of a work out.

I find myself doing less categorizing these days and more balancing of two (seemingly) opposing truths side by side.

For example, it is incredibly helpful and necessary to face and to feel all of my emotions (even those that I find less pleasant), AND it is also incredibly helpful and necessary to actively challenge and question the stories and thoughts that lie behind those emotions so that I can shift them in healthier ways, even though this can feel like I'm challenging the emotions themselves.

It serves me well to face my losses and places of brokenness fully and completely, AND it also serves me well to look for the gold that is forming even in the midst of the pain.

It is helpful (and necessary) to hold onto the truth that we truly are all one, AND it is also helpful to remember that everyone is different so I don't expect everyone else to operate (or feel or think) just like I do.

It is important to be able to ask for help when I need it, AND it is important to keep in mind that I am responsible for my own life and not wait for others to rescue me.

The key to these paradoxical truths is that they are most true when they are held together. Embracing only half of the pair leads away from healing and toward greater excess in one extreme or the other.

The tension of holding them together is what makes it possible to keep my balance on this high wire of paradox where I am able to hold these truths together in daily practice.

Without that tension holding the rope steady, I flail and fall to one side and then the other, out of balance and off-center.

Our histories, personalities, and experiences often lead us to feel more comfortable inhabiting one half of these kinds of paradoxical sets of truths while neglecting the other half. Regardless of which way we naturally lean, learning to embrace the other half of the set will lead us toward deeper growth and healing.

It's all about holding the tension and find the balance because in the middle of that tension is where we find wholeness.

Where do you naturally lean in these pairs of truths I've listed? What other pairs of paradoxical truths can you think of that keep you off-balance?

What would it look like to hold the tension in these pairs more strongly so that you find it easier to balance the two into that sweet center of wholeness and healing?


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