After the month I just had, I should really read a certain book again: Margin by Richard A. Swenson, M.D. The subtitle states, “restoring emotional, physical, financial, and time reserves to overloaded lives”. Throughout the book, Dr. Swenson proposes that we can, and must, reclaim the margin in our lives that has been stolen by progress. He proposed 5 axioms regarding progress that I found very interesting.

  1. Progress works by differentiating our environment, thus always giving us more and more of everything, faster and faster.
  2. The spontaneous flow of progress is toward increasing stress, change, complexity, speed, intensity, and overload.
  3. All humans have physical, mental, emotional, and financial limits that are relatively fixed.
  4. The profusion of progress is on a collision course with human limits. Once the threshold of these limits is exceeded, overload displaces margin.
  5. On the unsaturated side of their limits, humans can be open and expansive. On the saturated side of these limits, however, the rules of life totally change.

He then states, as I must also, that progress is not evil. Progress has given us many good things. I know that many of us would not like to return to the days before many of our taken-for-granted conveniences were invented. Since there are so many advances in technology, sources of information, affluence, our choices are rarely limited to whether we can, but whether we should. Just because the speed limit has been increased on the highway, thus shortening the time between distances, should we fill that “new” time with something else? Just because your salary increased, should your spending increase? Choices, choices, choices.

And that’s what it really comes down to. Choices. Are what we’re choosing drawing us closer to or further from our God? Our loved ones? Ourselves? Are you running just to catch yourself?

Dr. Swenson discusses in great detail how our lives have been affected by progress, the pain we experience from overload and the cure that is margin. He concludes by discussing the one commodity that goes against this supply and demand balance. And that is Love. The more we spend, the more we have. It works just the opposite of money, time, and things. There’s also a never-ending supply. I am amazed that I don’t love my wife and kids less since our numbers have grown. There’s always love to give (if you choose).

I’m really not doing this book justice in my synopsis. I really didn’t give myself enough time or space. What irony. But I hope I’ve sparked some interest. I’d be happy to loan it to you. The book, that is. You can’t loan out love.

“Pay all your debts, except the debt of love for others. You can never finish paying that! If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill all the requirements of God’s law.” Romans 13:8


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