“Make hay while the sun shines” (Miguel de Cervantes).
IF THERE IS SOMETHING THAT REQUIRES OUR DILIGENCE, THE TIME TO BE DILIGENT ABOUT IT IS RIGHT NOW. We must not spend our opportunities as if we had an unlimited supply. Now is the time to give ourselves diligently to whatever we should be doing.
But what does diligence mean? We can think of it in two directions, both of which are valuable. First, diligence means painstaking effort and persistent application. To be diligent is to work hard, doggedly plugging away at our projects. But second, diligence means being heedful and careful. We are being diligent when we pay attentive care to what we do, lovingly mindful of its importance.
Work long. Not everything is worth the investment of long hours, of course, but some things are. Whatever our priorities may be, we won’t do what is right by these if we do no more than what is convenient. So pick your priorities in life — and be prepared to work overtime. “Be first in the field and the last to the couch” (Chinese Proverb). Diligence separates the workers from the dabblers and the dreamers.
Work smart. Diligent people work harder and longer, but they also understand the importance of wisdom. “The expectations of life depend upon diligence; the craftsman who would perfect his work must first sharpen his tools” (Confucius). True diligence is an exertion of ourselves that is not only industrious but also intelligent. It means that we think creatively about our challenges and then attack them in ways that are the most efficient and likely to be effective.
Carried too far, diligence can become the driver of an obsessed, imbalanced life. But when wisely governed, it is an exceedingly important virtue, especially when brought to bear on our spiritual lives, our family relationships, and our community service. The opportunity to be diligent about these avenues of service won’t last always. Bad weather and nightfall are coming. So make hay while the sun shines!
“I will try this day to live a simple, sincere, and serene life; repelling promptly every thought of discontent, anxiety, discouragement, impurity, and self-seeking; cultivating cheerfulness, magnanimity, charity, and the habit of holy silence; exercising economy in expenditure, carefulness in conversation, diligence in appointed service, fidelity to every trust, and a childlike trust in God” (John H. Vincent).