Tuesday, April 26, 2011


“For every complex problem there is a simple solution. And it’s wrong.”  Anonymous

I love this quote when either the politically far left or far right pedantically identifies a problem and states The Solution. These people are why God gave us the intelligence to invent remote controls, and use them.

My husband and I have come into a congregation’s life following a strong leader who insisted on riding a single pole, or, if you will, stressed one position of a Polarity to the detriment of the interdependent dimension. With his absence those who desired the other dimension flowed into the vacuum with much shouting as they restated the Polarity and demanded a simple solution: theirs. The tension was palpable.

A Polarity is not a problem with a one-time-forever solution. A Polarity includes poles from both positions, view points, platforms, emphases, whatever you need to call it. You cannot successfully emphasize one pole without recognizing the time and place of the other.

Barry Johnson in Polarity Management diagrams the Polarity for ease in identification. In my post of April 15 I discuss To Keep and To Throw Away. Both positions offer positive and negative effects. They are interdependent. They are both right and wrong depending on many factors that need to be considered.

Left                                                                                                    Right
Positive                                                                                               Positive
1.   Emotional joy                          1. Less clutter = simpler living
2.   Profitable use                          2. Space around articles of
Dimension A                                     Dimension B
To Keep                                            To Throw Away
   1.   Can't find what you need            1. Will not have when need
   2.   Lose productive living space        2. Cost of replacement
Left                                                                                                    Right
Negative                                                                                        Negative

Every congregation struggles to manage the following Polarities:
Lay Leadership and Clergy Leadership,
Tradition and Innovation,
Preserve and Outreach,
Lay Worship Leadership and Clergy Worship Leadership.

Every home and business also struggles to manage Polarities:

Work and Home,
To Buy and To Save,
Closeness and Distance,
Separate Parts Thinking and System Thinking,
To Go Fast to Perform and To Go Slow to Prepare.

Managing a Polarity does not mean your organization will be tension-free with no arguments.  A Polarity is tension. It is a continual energy flow back and forth between two positions or "complimentary dimensions."

How we manage our pain in the energy flow gives a good clue to our survival and success.

Johnson, Barry. Polarity Management. Identifying and Managing Unsolvable Problems. HRD Press, Inc. 1996.

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