POINTS TO PONDER

When we think of the word “harmony,” it is often associated with music, orchestras, and singing. But it goes far beyond that because it is not just a sound; it is a passion.

One of India’s great statesmen, A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, once said, “Where there is righteousness in the heart, there is beauty in character. When there is beauty in character, there is harmony in the home. When there is harmony in the home, there is order in the nation. When there is order in the nation, there is peace in the world.

In Montreal, Canada, Robert J. Vallerand of the Social Behavior Research Laboratory University of Quebec states that harmonious passion originates from an independent acceptance of the activity into one’s identity. In contrast, obsessive passion emanates from a controlled acceptance and comes to dominate the person. Through the experience of positive emotions during activity engagement that takes place on a regular and repeated basis, it is suggested that harmonious passion contributes to sustained psychological well-being while preventing the experience of negative affect, psychological conflict, and ill-being. On the other hand, obsessive desire is not expected to produce such positive effects and may even facilitate adverse effects, competition with other life activities, and psychological ill-being.

Psychologist Tom G. Stevens of California State University tells us that harmonious functioning creates peak learning, performance, and happiness. He explains that occasionally everything in our mind and body functions harmoniously. For instance, we might be playing tennis and seem to be at one with the court, the ball, and the movement. We feel confident in hitting the ball where we want. Our mind and body are highly energized, but not overly so. We are especially alert and can focus on the ball and where we want to hit it. When are we in this state because we are involved in and loving what we are doing, we are performing at our best.

But Stevens says this harmonious state occurs during tennis and other activities such as fellowshipping, conversing, solving a problem, having a special vacation experience, or appreciating a beautiful sunset. During these experiences, we feel as if every cell in our mind and body is functioning at some optimal level, doing what it was intended to do. This type of functioning is exceptionally healthy for our psychological and physical health. At the same time, its opposites–prolonged anxiety, anger, or depression–are unhealthy states. Evidence increases that too much time spent in these negative emotional states is detrimental to our mental and physical health.

Finally, these harmonious experiences may be similar to what American Psychologist Abraham Maslow referred to as “peak experiences.” He found that self-actualizing people–especially those who focused more on mental activities–tended to have many more peak experiences than most people. He characterized these peak experiences as a feeling of inner harmony and oneness with themselves and the universe.

Psychologist Tim Lomas asks, “What comes to your mind when you think of well-being?” Perhaps health and happiness, love and relationships, safety and security, prosperity and success, meaning and purpose, and so on. These are all valuable and often even necessary.

But what about balance and harmony? These are potentially less obvious, but may be among the most important qualities of all. As I’ve explored in a new article, balance, and harmony (B/H) are not merely relevant to well-being but a “golden thread” running through its myriad dimensions. As such, an overarching definition of well-being might be the dynamic attainment of optimal balance and harmony in any — and ideally all — aspects of life.

We also learn that harmony is described as “subjective well-being.” It was introduced as a combination of long-term levels of positive affect, lack of negative affect, and satisfaction with life. This concept presents three hallmarks: (1) it is subjective, that is, it depends on the individual experience, (2) it is not the mere absence of negative affect but also includes the measure of positive states, and (3) it includes a global assessment of one’s life rather than a specific domain. Since this initial concept, other approaches to well-being have been provided.

For instance, the theory of “psychological well-being” as a composite of six domains (self-acceptance, positive relations with others, individualism, environmental mastery, purpose in life, and personal growth) has received extensive experimental support. In a similar vein, some divide well-being and mental health into three major categories: emotional well-being (described as the presence of positive feelings and absence of negative feelings about life), psychological well-being (private and personal evaluations of one’s positive functioning in life), and social well-being (public and social criteria of people’s functioning in life including dimensions such as social coherence, social actualization, social integration, social acceptance, and social contribution).

Then psychologists Paula Thomson and S. Victoria Jaque tell us about the dualistic model of passion delineates two opposing forms of passion, harmonious versus obsessionalHarmonious passion implies that people shape part of their identity around the activity they desire. For example, most performing artists will self-define as musicians, singers, dancers, or actors. They internalize the activity they love into their identity. The action is a significant part of their life, but they can also maintain and find meaning in other interests and relationships with others. Engaging in their passionate activity does not provoke conflict in their life; hence it is defined as harmonious passion. Obsessive passions indicate that the performer experiences an uncontrollable need to participate in the activity; however, their internalization and self-identity are also contingent on acceptance. Their self-esteem is diminished by negative emotions, reflection, physical and psychological tension, and difficulties maintaining relationships.

As we can see, all of this applies to other areas of our lives such as marriage, family, church, social gatherings, spiritual living, etc. So, what does the Bible say about harmony?

In one of King David’s favorite Psalms, he says, “How wonderful and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony! . . . Harmony is as refreshing as the dew from Mount Hermon that falls on the mountains of Zion. And there the Lord has pronounced his blessing, even life everlasting.”[1]

Then the Apostle Peter wrote to his followers that their minds should be in harmony with each other. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude.[2]

But the Apostle Paul was the most vocal about harmony. First, he told the Roman believers to “Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.”[3] Then later, he tells them, “Let us aim for harmony in the church and try to build each other up.”[4] And finally, he prayed, “May God, who gives this patience and encouragement, help you live in complete harmony with each other, fitting for followers of Christ Jesus.”[5]

Paul also said to churches,” I appeal to you, dear brothers and sisters, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, to live in harmony with each other. Let there be no divisions in the church. Instead, be of one mind, united in thought and purpose.”[6] Furthermore, he spoke of the need for unity by telling them, “Since God chose you to be the holy people He loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. But, above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony.”[7]

And lastly, Paul urged them that “Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ. So then, whether I come and see you again or only hear about you, I will know that you are standing together in harmony with one spirit and one purpose, fighting together for the faith, which is the Good News.”[8]


[1] Psalm 133:1, 3 – New Living Translation

[2] 1 Peter 3:8

[3] Romans 12:16 – NIV

[4] Ibid 14:19

[5] Ibid 15:5

[6] 1 Corinthians 1:10

[7] Colossians 3:12-14

[8] Philippians 1:27

About drbob76

Retired missionary, pastor, seminary professor, Board Certified Chaplain and American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Director.
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