Polarity Management

These past several weeks have felt very full! We participated in the “Spring into Parkdale” street festival, hosted a couple of different youth groups, went to a Street Level (www.streetlevel.ca) conference in St. Catharines, and held an open mic night, along with all the usual Dale programming. Erinn was also away for one of those weeks, which I’m sure is good for my character/leadership development… but I’m always VERY happy to see her come back 🙂 So, these weeks have been full of tricky challenges, lovely, sweet moments, and lots of learning. I’d like to share one of the biggest and most helpful bits of learning with you.

At the Street Level conference, Erinn, Steve (a member of our outreach team), some Sanctuary friends and I went to a session about Polarity Management.

Polarity Management is defined as “mastering unsolvable problems by achieving healthy tension between conflicting values”. Some classic polarities include planning vs. action, work vs. home, stability vs. change, etc. The basic idea of polarity management is that it’s not about choosing a side, or about finding the “perfect balance” between the two poles, but to achieve a healthy tension. Like breathing- we need to both inhale and exhale. There’s no “balance” between the two, but there is a dynamic, healthy, flow.

This concept is super helpful in the context of The Dale, and really in any community, organization, relationship, or within an individual. We all manage these types of conflicting values all the time, but having the language to talk about it is very useful, and it’s relieving to realize that struggling with the tension is actually a sign that you’re on the right track.

Coming back to The Dale, after the weekend, I started to take notice of the polarities that we need to manage as a community, in the framework that we had talked about at StreetLevel.

One of our deepest values at The Dale is the invitation into full participation. The polarity that lies beneath this value is that of empowerment and accountability. We have community volunteers who are deeply involved in the running of The Dale, and we recognize that we need to provide good structure/guidelines/supervision for these precious folks. The tension between these two things is tricky, and now I understand more fully that that’s okay! We need to keep the dynamic flow between these poles going, in order to work towards the higher purpose of full, healthy participation for everyone who wants to be involved. And this is just one of many polarities that I identified, once I started thinking in those terms.

So, I’m thankful for this new found language and framework. The idea of living with uncomfortable tensions isn’t new to me- in fact I wrote about it in my “Do this in remembrance of me” post, with regards to my thinking about alcohol… But being in that workshop, recognizing that we’re all in this together, and that there are helpful ways of thinking through these tensions was a gift.

Lord, grant us all the grace and wisdom to live in the tension, and trust you in it.


By joannacatherinemoon

I am the Lead Community Worker at The Dale Ministries in Parkdale, Toronto, ON. The Dale seeks to create safe welcoming spaces in which all people, particularly those on the margins, are encouraged to participate fully, to the best of their abilities and journey together toward a deeper experience of the life God has given us. This blog is meant to help keep my supporters connected with life at The Dale.

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