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Character Matters
November 1, 2009
Character Trait –Industriousness:
Check It Out. – What Does It Matter? – How Does it Count?
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Industriousness – Steady As She Goes
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Do you remember the billboards or posters that inspired us to keep on truckin'? Okay, so I'm dating myself. But that phrase embodies this month's character trait: industriousness. It is another aspect of the broad category of responsibility that we have been studying. Industriousness is earnest, steady effort. It is based on the word industry, which originally had to do with intelligent work. Later it became associated with manufacturing, production, and application of work.

Which ties in to our quote of the month – it's not work for work's sake, but work that produces a desired end. It is discipline with a direction and, as the phrase above reminds us, a destination. Discipline is not easy; it goes against the grain of our natural, fleshly inclinations. Unless you are an exceptionally willful person, it's hard to be disciplined.

Which brings us to our “saving grace” for Christians. In his book, Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis points out a unique aspect of our efforts at discipline and character development.

           We may, indeed, be sure that perfect chastity – like perfect charity – will not be attained by any merely
           human efforts. You must ask for God's help. Even when you have done so, it may seem to you for a long
           time that no help, or less help than you need, is being given. Never mind. After each failure, ask
           forgiveness, pick yourself up, and try again. Very often what God first helps us towards is not the virtue
           itself but just this power of always trying again. For however important chastity (or courage, or
           truthfulness, or any other virtue) may be, this process trains us in habits of the soul which are more
           important still. It cures our illusions about ourselves and teaches us to depend on God. We learn, on the
           one hand, that we cannot trust ourselves even in our best moments, and, on the other, that we need not
           despair even in our worst, for our failures are forgiven. The only fatal thing is to sit down content with
           anything less than perfection.

He went on to add that “virtue – even attempted virtue – brings light; indulgence brings fog.” I hate to break this to you, but at some point in time your student will balk at doing what has been assigned. Chances are you'll hear one of the following: “Why do I have to do this again?” “This is so boring!” “Why do I have to learn this when I know I won't be using it ever again?”

There are several good responses, but one that is often overlooked in this age of instant gratification is industriousness. To give in just because something is boring or not immediately relevant is to cloud the issue of self-discipline. Indeed, all of the circumstances above may be true, but there is value in learning to stick with something for no other reason that the discipline it produces.

Yet in God's economy, it rarely comes to that. Jeremiah 29:11 says: “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.” Another translation says “the plans that I have for you.” We may not see that expected end yet, but God always has a direction in mind when He disciplines us. The same should be said for the discipline we exert for ourselves, for our children, and in our homeschooling.
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