Be diligent

diligenceDiligence is the constant and earnest effort to accomplish what is undertaken. —Atal Gawande

I have never thought much about diligence. Virtues like courage, initiative, honesty, and optimism seem to get all the attention. Diligence appears mundane, simplistic, even boring. But it is the prerequisite of all great accomplishment.

Diligence is putting your hand to the plow and not letting go until the row is hoed. It always requires focus, and often requires aggressiveness and inventiveness.

Initiative takes the lead and diligence keeps up the pace. These two virtues converge to form industriousness.

Diligence is personified in the life of Demosthenes, a contemporary of Plato and Aristotle, who overcame seemingly insurmountable challenges to become one of the great orators of Athens, if not history.

He was a sickly and frail child, inhibited by a debilitating speech impediment. When he was seven years old his parents died. His guardians stole his inheritance.

But one day, the young Demosthenes heard a speech at the court of Athens given by a gifted orator and was so moved by the man’s stirring voice and inspiring ideas that he vowed to follow suit and become a statesman—one who could persuade others with his words and thoughts. He crafted and followed an improbable plan to overcome his challenges and perfect his skills.

To strengthen his voice and the clarity of his speech he practiced speaking with pebbles in his mouth. He rehearsed near the seashore, working to make his voice heard above the pounding of the waves. He built an underground dugout so he could study without distractions and shaved half his head so he would not be tempted to deviate from his studies by engaging in social activities. He reportedly copied Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War eight times in order to improve his command of language and to absorb its history.

His diligence to study and prepare worked. Through his insightful writing and persuasive speaking he became a leader in 4th century Greece. Some consider him the father of democracy. His speech On the Crown has been called the greatest speech of the greatest orator in the world.

While it’s fascinating to talk about the paraphernalia of Demosthenes’ diligence— pebbles, waves, caves, and a shaved head—we need to examine ourselves and ask, “Are we diligent,” and if so, what is the proof? What habits and routines demonstrate our careful and persistent work and effort?

A lack of diligence will derail our best intentions. Its presence will aid and support our goals and plans.

[reminder]What are your thoughts about this essay?[/reminder]

12 Replies to “Be diligent”

  1. Wow

    Years ago at another church we had a teacher who taught at TCU. I informed the teacher after a class one Sunday, ‘You make my head hurt because you challenged me to think.’

    I enjoy your words of wisdom. Please keep it up.

    1. Jill, thanks for encouraging words. We’ll all do better in life if we’ll stop and think deeply about important things. Take care and thanks for writing. Don

  2. Don, what a delight it was to open my email this morning and find this piece from you. I love it and want more!! The time Dale and I shared with you and Mary in Israel was a true treasure. I now feel like that treasure continues in communication. Thank you. Lynda

    1. Lynda, thanks for kind and encouraging words.
      Mary and I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know you and Dale while on our Israel trip. What a time we had.
      Take care and I hope we can see you again, soon.
      PS – I post once a week so you’ll be hearing from me every Thursday morning 🙂

  3. Thanks Don,

    Loved this today! This is something we need to be reminded of for all parts of our life. Whether it is with our job, at home, parenting, or as a Christian.

    In my job, keeping my students focused is always difficult after spring break. Especially with my seniors. Thank you so much for sharing!

    Have great day!

    1. Paula, thanks for taking the time to write. You live a very busy life. I admire those of you who teach, and affirm the wonderful impact you have on your students Don

  4. Although I was somewhat familiar with Demosthenes, I never really understood the incredible efforts he had made to overcome his limitations in such an exacting and strenuous manner! I have to take off my hat to him for setting such a challenge and example for us. And this is why I so appreciate your efforts to challenge and encourage us to live a disciplined life. Would God expect less? Not hardly! Thanks, Don, I needed that! 🙂

  5. 2 Peter 1 (paraphrased) Grace/peace multiplied in knowledge of God/Lord Jesus, whose divine power granted us (the called), thru true knowledge, EVERYTHING pertaining to life/godliness by His own glory/excellence, on which He granted us, having escaped this world’s corruption (via our lusts), precious/magnificent promises, to become partakers of His divine nature.

    Now, for this reason, APPLYING ALL DILIGENCE, SUPPLY (add to your faith): moral excellence, plus knowledge, plus self-control, plus perseverance, plus godliness, plus brotherly kindness, plus love.

    If these qualities are yours and increasing they will render you neither useless nor unfruitful, but he who lacks these, is blind (short-sighted), having forgotten his purification from his former sins. Therefore, be all the more DILIGENT to make certain His calling. For as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble and the entrance into our Lord/Savior’s kingdom will be abundantly supplied to you.

    1. Lon, thanks for making the connection between diligence and the verses in 2 Peter. It all ties together. I appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts. Don

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