Bill Tune

A wise man once said that if a person stuck one foot in a hot oven and the other in a tub of ice, on average, he would be comfortable.  Ok, maybe he wasn’t so wise.  However, I have long felt that a key to success in life was one of balance.  Alcohol, for instance, is not an evil in and unto itself, but excessive consumption leads to dire consequences.  Moderate consumption, on the other hand, can be beneficial to one’s health.  Similar observations could be made about pursuit of career, video games, sweets, church, politics, and even food.  Extremes are rarely desirable.

If you’ve ever wondered why certain people are in constant conflict, I can offer one hypothesis, but first let me digress.

In my junior English class in high school we were instructed to write a persuasive essay and given a topic.  After carefully studying the topic, which is what I presumably did - even though I don’t remember the topic, I poured the wisdom of my 17 years into the essay.  I will never forget the critique my teacher wrote at the top of the paper: “Billy, you need to pick a side!”  Apparently, my efforts at illuminating all sides of the issue had not “persuaded” my teacher to give it high marks.  Some people are very decisive and quick to pick sides.  Me, not so much.

I learned later in life that there are two kinds of thinking for most people: black and white thinking, used by people who like rules, consistency, and certainty; and gray thinking which is less decisive and more open to exploring options and considering different viewpoints.  Neither approach is the “right” way to think.  A combination of the two is needed for most effective decision-making – a balance, in other words.  I think much of the confusion and frustration that develops between opposing sides of any issue stem from the fact that each side cannot comprehend how the other side can see the situation so differently.  Our brains are wired to think differently.

I am a gray thinker, even though in far fewer than 50 shades!  Once I realized this, my life made more sense.  Decision-making has never been a forte of mine, but knowing that it takes me more time (and sometimes more information) to make a decision has helped me cope with that tendency.  It also gives my wife the ability to understand and still love me even when my indecision is driving her crazy.  Black and white thinkers tend to view gray thinking as a weakness, but it has advantages.  Gray thinkers are less likely to rush into bad decisions, and they tend to cope better with the inconsistencies in life that are inevitable.  Black and white thinking tends to take an “all or nothing” approach to problem solving.  Gray thinking literally sees the shades of gray between the extremes.

As with most topics, there is much written about this thinking dichotomy. Google “gray thinking” or “black and white thinking” and a number of articles can be found.  I especially enjoyed Rod Reed’s article, “In a black and white world, try thinking gray,” written in 2008.  I’m also reading a book by Adam Hamilton, Seeing Gray in a Black and White World.  Adam Hamilton is a United Methodist pastor of a mega-church in Kansas who has written much about the effectiveness – or lack thereof – of today’s church.  Much of the division within Christian circles today is closely tied to an excess of black and white thinking.  Hamilton says this about the lack of unity among Christian denominations:

Our desire for certainty, our need to be right, and our tendency to miss the point have conspired to keep Christians from experiencing unity, and instead have led to endless divisions within the Christian faith.

Too much black and white thinking in the church has lead to an obsession with rules, judgment, and exclusion instead of promoting the core of Jesus’ teaching: love and acceptance.  Too much gray thinking, on the other hand, would probably leave Christians with little to no organization at all.  We need a balance.

I said there were two types of thinking, but that should not imply that there are only two types of thinkers.  As with most personal traits, no one is 100% black and white or gray in his or her thinking.  Each of us is a combination of the two extremes with most people leaning one way or the other.  I suspect that the best decision-making occurs when one finds the proper balance between the two extremes.

What about the mess in Washington?  Not only is it okay to have different philosophies present in our legislature, it is an essential element to achieving the needed balance for effective governing.  So how can we expect any positive results when some of our congress people think “compromise” is a bad word?  I am puzzled by people who allegedly revere our founding fathers, but demonize the practice of compromise, without which, our country never would have been formed.

I am equally puzzled by the topic of gun control.  I understand the passionate position of the NRA toward an individual’s rights to own guns.  I do not, however, understand the hysterical reactions to every mention of gun control.  I know of no serious proposition to rid all gun owners of their precious possessions, yet any mention of restricting access to automatic rifles is viewed as an attack on the 2nd Amendment.  I’m really getting tired of the “slippery slope” argument as a means to block all discussion of a very serious issue.  Is there any sane justification for civilians to own automatic weapons?  Yeah, I know, guns don’t kill people, people do, but I contend that when the inevitable happens, and a disturbed individual chooses to hurt people, we need to make every effort to minimize the damage by reducing the chances that he does it with automatic weapons.  Ban all guns? No. Ban assault weapons? Yes. Balance? Please!

As a retired teacher, I am grateful that I will never have to work at a school where my next in-service includes training for carrying a concealed weapon.  That is one of the current proposals in the Texas legislature.  I can’t imagine the nightmare of having to keep up with a firearm at school, plus I’m very fond of my right foot.  It would surely be the first casualty if I ever had to wield a weapon.

I will agree that gun control is only one of the components needed to make this country a safer place.  We clearly need more awareness of mental health issues and facilities to handle those who need help.  For more information, visit  Of course, that would mean an increase of funding, and apparently no one wants to pay for that.  We as a society have important choices to make, and we have to consider all the consequences of those choices. If our societal priorities become a.) holding onto our “hard-earned cash”, and b.) making sure no one gets anything he/she doesn’t deserve, let’s make sure we don’t end up cutting off our proverbial noses in the process. 

We will never achieve universal agreement on any of these issues, but I do hope for a return to civil discussions where all sides are considered and where efforts are made to achieve some balance between extremes.  Think about it.


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