“‘Tis nothing for a man to hold up his head in a calm; but to maintain his post when all others have quitted their ground and there to stand upright when other men are beaten down is divine” (Seneca).
IN MANY SITUATIONS, WE HOPE TO DO MORE THAN MAINTAIN THE STATUS QUO, BUT IN TRUTH, “MAINTENANCE” IS A MORE WORTHY ACHIEVEMENT THAN WE MIGHT THINK. “Maintain” comes from the Latin phrase manu tenere, “to hold in the hand.” So to maintain something means to “hold” it, keep it, or continue it. And frankly, there are many good things that need to be continued.
Another definition of maintenance is “upkeep” or “the work of keeping something in proper condition.” And most of us have experienced that there is a lot of that to be done in the world. Left to themselves, things decay and suffer degradation. Without the worthy work of maintenance, none of the good things in life will keep working. Think of your marriage, for example. If you don’t nourish it frequently, it will die. If you don’t maintain it, it will degenerate.
Maintenance requires, first of all, an appreciation of the thing that needs to be maintained. If you take your health for granted and don’t recognize its value, you won’t do what’s necessary to maintain it. If you’re not grateful for your house, you will neglect its upkeep.
But maintenance also requires constant vigilance and hard work. The kinds of things that have to be done to keep things going often don’t seem very exciting, but they must be done. If we don’t do them faithfully, we are setting ourselves up for serious regret later on.
Of all the treasures that need to be maintained, the most important is love, and therein lies a considerable challenge, for love is, of all things, the hardest to maintain. No, the maintenance of love is not hard in the sense of being unpleasant or burdensome, but it is hard because it is so fragile. Without maintenance, love that has taken years to create can be ruined by one season of thoughtless negligence.
“Love is difficult to sustain, not because it is a positive emotion, but because it is a complex one. Hate is easy to maintain for a lifetime because it is a simple one. Love might be compared to the building of a tall and elaborate sandcastle, taking many hours of painstaking effort, cooperation, balance, and persistence; and hate might be compared to the foot that comes along and with one vicious or thoughtless kick destroys in a moment what has been built up” (Sydney J. Harris).