Oscar Wilde is credited with saying that “Consistency is the hallmark of the unimaginative.”
Wilde’s point was that consistent living can become a wearisome repetition of sameness day after day. Such consistency can degenerate into a life that is dull. Boring. Trite. Listless. Languid. And essentially lifeless.
In response, an unknown author issued this challenge to get out of the consistency rut.
So stop getting up at 6:05. Get up at 5:06. Walk a mile at dawn. Find a new way to drive to work. Switch chores with your spouse next Saturday. Buy a wok. Study wildflowers. Stay up alone all night. Read to the blind. Canoe at midnight. Don’t write to your Congressman; take a whole scout troop to see him. Learn to speak Italian. Listen to two hours of uninterrupted Mozart. Leap out of that rut. Savor life. Remember, we pass this way only once.
Indeed consistency can become a weakness instead of a strength. In this regard, Emerson wrote, “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.” To grow is to change. To mature. To evolve in our thinking. Not to be held captive of ideas and applications that are outdated or incorrect in order to remain consistent. Abraham Lincoln, when criticized for a change in his position on an issue, purportedly retorted, “I would rather be right than be consistent.”
However, there is a consistency that is worth our concentrated and consecrated effort and energy. Consistency of character. Of conduct. Of principle. Of purity. Of values. And virtues. This consistency is based on God’s standard of righteousness and truth. Francis Bacon was right when he wrote, “Consistency is the foundation of virtue.”
Jesus frequently condemned the hypocrisy of the Pharisees who were guilty of inconsistency. “They say and do not” (Matt 23:3). However, even the best of us realize we fight a battle of consistency between our words and our deeds. Between our beliefs and our behavior. Between our virtues and our vices.
The apostle Peter knew this struggle all too well. He boasted that he would never deny Jesus, yet hours later did the very thing he never dreamed of doing. Three times. Later Peter preached the gospel to Gentiles and defended their right of citizenship in the Kingdom (Acts 10-11). Yet, later Peter was publicly chastised by Paul for disassociating with Gentiles for fear of the Jews’s opinion. In fact, even Barnabas, the son of encouragement, fell prey to this temptation. (Gal. 2:11-13).
“O consistency, thou art a jewel.” Whether Shakespeare actually said this or not is open to debate, but Chuck Swindoll was right, consistency is a jewel worth wearing. An anchor worth weighing. A thread worth weaving. And a battle worth winning.
The consistency of a consecrated life will keep the conscience pure. Ensure our motives are honorable. Allow us to influence others. Foster our friendships. Keep our commitments. Support our families. Serve our brethren. And always champion Truth.
Consistency of beliefs and behavior are well illustrated in a story told by George Mansfield who told about four scholars who were arguing over Bible translations.
One said he preferred the King James Version because of its beautiful, eloquent old English. Another said he preferred the American Standard Bible for its literalism, the way it moves the reader from passage to passage with confident feelings of accuracy from the original text. A third man preferred Moffatt because of its quaint, penetrating use of words, the turn of a phrase that captures the attention of the reader.
After giving the issue further thought, the fourth scholar admitted, “I have personally preferred my mother’s translation.’ When the other scholars chuckled, he responded, “Yes, she translated it. She translated each page of the Bible into life. It is the most convincing translation I ever saw.”
The counsel of John Maxwell will greatly help us translate truth into life. “Small disciplines repeated with consistency every day lead to great achievements gained slowly over time.”
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman
5 responses to “Word of the Week: Consistency”
Good thoughts. Pharisees, ancient and modern, tend to fall into Emerson’s “foolish consistencies.” They feel forced to ridiculous conclusions and extremes because “Consistency demands it.” Refusing to eat an egg laid on the Sabbath would be an ancient application. I’ll not offer any modern illustrations for fear of damaging my reputation.
And it’s good to know that you’re not wanting to damage your reputation. Any further!
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