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“Pray to God we may have the courage and the wisdom and the vision to raise a definite standard that will appeal to the best that is in man, and then strive mightily toward that goal” (Harold E. Stassen).
LITERALLY, THE WORD “STANDARD” MEANS “RALLYING PLACE.” On the battlefield, a standard is a flag or banner which rallies the troops to their cause. In ancient times, to be the standard-bearer was an important responsibility: the flag could not be allowed to fall.
Then the word came to be used figuratively to mean an acknowledged measure of comparison, a criterion. Today, we often think of a standard as an expected level of conduct or performance. We speak of moral standards, ethical standards, business standards, and so forth.
A nation needs a worthy set of standards, and so do individual people. If we have no rallying point in our lives and if there’s no minimum level of honor to which we hold ourselves, then we’re simply adrift, and nothing very good will come from our activity. Living with no standards produces more mediocrity than it does excellence.
We ought to be careful in selecting our standards. In the marketplace of ideas, there are all sorts of standards to choose from, many with a flashy appearance but little long-term value. It pays to be careful.
There ought to be some standards which we refuse to compromise. There comes a time in life when we’re tempted to barter with the devil, so to speak. But there ought to be some things that are simply not negotiable. We may back up and back up and back up, but eventually honor must assert itself and say, “No further!”
We need to be improving our standards constantly. Some of the best work we ever do is upgrading our standards. None of us has a perfect set of personal standards yet, and so we need to be working on their quality continually, aligning our standards with principles of time-tested value.
In many homes there are two sets of dishes: one for everyday use and another for special occasions. Most of us also have more than one set of standards, and while meeting our highest standards may not be possible every instant, those standards can certainly be met more than once or twice a year. We should use our “good dishes” more often!
“You must regulate your life by the standards you admire when you are at your best” (John M. Thomas).