It’s the jewel worth wearing;
It’s the anchor worth weighing:
It’s the thread worth weaving;
It’s the battle worth winning.
(Charles R. Swindoll)
CONSISTENCY IS A CHARACTER TRAIT WORTH STRIVING FOR. Some kinds of consistency may not be helpful, as we shall see, but if there is no consistency at all in our lives, it’s going to be hard for us to accomplish any worthwhile goal. And not only that, but we will be extremely frustrating to those who have dealings with us. Our unpredictability will be a constant source of strain in our relationships.
At the outset, however, let’s admit that consistency is not always a virtue. Emerson, for example, said, “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds,” and he was right. Sometimes we lessen the quality of our work by being picky and pedantic. But worse, if we fail to make positive changes in our lives because we don’t want to be inconsistent with what we’ve done in the past, that is extremely foolish.
The kind of consistency we ought to admire and emulate, however, is the consistency of people who can be counted on. Their behavior is predictable enough that their friends know what to expect. They keep their commitments. They finish what they start. There is a dependable uniformity in their character and conduct. And surely, this kind of consistency is one of the highest goals in life. “To be capable of steady friendship or lasting love, are the two greatest proofs, not only of goodness of heart, but of strength of mind” (William Hazlitt).
Yet I believe there is an even higher goal, and that is consistency to truth and goodness. This type of inner consistency often requires outward changes in our lives, but our goal is not to keep our behavior unchanged; it’s to follow our conscience consistently. As we learn more of what’s right, we may have to break with how we’ve done things in the past, and following our conscience may sometimes leave us open to the charge of inconsistency. But we shouldn’t worry about that too much. Come what may, we must be able to say, “I did what I believed was right.” Without consistency to our beliefs, we may as well not believe.
“He does not believe who does not live according to his belief” (Thomas Fuller).