The Importance of Balancing Strength and Warmth

Golden Sunset, Yellowstone ©Lynne Buchanan

The other day my father was discussing John Neffinger and Matthew Kohut's book, Compelling People: The Hidden Qualities that Make Us Influential.  According to the authors, all social judgments hinge on two criteria: strength and warmth.  Strength connotes the ability to get things done through talent and force of will.  We tend to respect strong people, though we don't always like them if they don't seem empathetic enough.  Warmth suggests that people share our feelings, so we generally like warm people.  However, if people are warm and weak, we often disregard them as we think they might not be capable of protecting our interests.  When people are strong and warm we think they are willing and able to look out for us, so the author's contend we naturally look to them as leaders.

The more I thought about this, the more I realized how universally appealing this combination is and how desirable it is to achieve a balance of these qualities in both our lives and our artistic pursuits. In the photograph of the sunset in Yellowstone above, the clouds and sweeping lines of the landscape are very strong while the palette is warm.  Standing on the hillside above the valley, I felt pulled into the scene.  I did not resist, as I might have if the clouds had been threatening and the color of the landscape had been cooler.  The yellows and golds in the clouds and the earth made the scene very inviting and the graphic elements were so compelling that I stood there mesmerized until the sky grew dark.

There is not doubt that I am also attracted to people who seem alive and are pursuing their passions with vigor and intensity.  Yet, if they only seem to care about their own passions and being recognized for their accomplishments, I soon feel insignificant.  Likewise, when I feel strong, I feel more capable of accomplishing my dreams and facing life's challenges.  However, when I feel that this strength must all come from my own will power and ego, it doesn't last very long.  Soon something comes along that I can't handle alone.  I encounter difficult situations that I can't do anything about, because they are beyond my control.  This is the time when I must dig deep and find real inner strength, a strength that is connected to life force energy or spirit, whatever it is for you.  No matter how vivid the fears about my own failures or the downward spiral of the planet my mind conjures up, I must stay the course and keep believing in my ability to land or my feet and the earth's ability to bring itself back into balance.  

This brings to mind a quote by Patrick Overton, "When you walk to the edge of all the light you have and take that first step into the darkness of the unknown, you must believe that one of two things will happen: there will be something solid for you to stand upon, or you will be taught how to fly."  The people who I am most inspired and moved by are the people who are able to remain strong even as their old worlds and sense of security are shattered.  If I am standing on the edge of the known waiting for someone to lead me where to go next, I would definitely prefer to follow someone who believes flying is possible and who would be kind enough to offer me a hand as we left the ground. I also realize that I can't just let someone else take me there.  I have to believe in flying myself and in lending a hand to someone else.  How special it would be to join hands with someone and be courageous enough to go to the edge of what we know is possible and step into the realm of our dreams and begin manifesting them.  Until such a time, I will keep trying to quiet my fears and have faith in my visions of a better, more balanced existence.