I remember that day. It was forty-five minutes before my Art History class and I was cramming my head full of paintings, the names of painters, dates, who commissioned the artist, and where it was currently displayed. I had made flash-cards for all one-hundred pieces of artwork and as I sat there systematically memorizing them I flipped through the stack like a blur. The minutes were counting down. The exam was coming ever closer.
I thought I was being clever. Memorizing a test’s worth of images and information less than an hour before class. Wasn’t I smart?
And now you’re thinking, well, she must have bombed the test… isn’t that the lesson? No, actually, I aced the test… but do I recall very many of those images, which were foundational for that section of my Art History degree? Hardly a one. I have to go and look them up in my giant textbook that lingers from college days. I still appreciated the class, I did learn a lot, but my moment of vanity showcased a greater, more valuable lesson… that of the need for more diligence.
Diligence. An antiquated sounding word, which comes to us from Latin by way of an Old French dialect, but we rarely hear our see it outside of legal language like the phrase “due diligence”. Yet this old fashioned word holds a key to getting the most value from school work, or work of any kind.
It means to work carefully and exert extra effort to complete a task you have undertaken (Dictionary.reference.com). Diligence is that extra time and care you take to make sure you are prepared for an exam, a well written paper, or any other project.
It isn’t just that we want special recognition for being extra diligent. We can turn it into that, making it a competition with others for how prepared we are, but the real value of diligence is that we ourselves benefit from the extra effort studying or perfecting a skill, so that in the course of time we are expert, rather than just average. Eventually our expertise, whether from schooling or training becomes of value to others. Diligence is about earning and giving back.
In my case, a more diligent approach would have been earlier preparation for my exam, more time spent with each image, and a greater retention in my memory to be used later in my degree area. Diligence benefits us in the short-term as well as the long-term.
Diligence of biblical proportions…
There are many instances where the word or the concept of diligence is used in the Bible. In the Proverbs, it comes highly recommended, “The lazy man does not roast what he took in hunting, But diligence is man’s precious possession” (Proverbs 12:27 Proverbs 12:27The slothful man roasts not that which he took in hunting: but the substance of a diligent man is precious.
American King James Version×, NKJV, emphasis added). Diligence is a great gift, but only if we use it!
Diligence also appears in the book of 2 Peter, “But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love” (2 Peter 1:5-7 2 Peter 1:5-7  And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge;
 And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness;
 And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.
American King James Version×, emphasis added). In this case, diligence is tied to the process of growth that we are to strive for as faithful followers of Jesus Christ, called by God the Father.
A similar process of growth occurs as we get our education and move on to our life’s work, diligence is a valuable trait to apply. So take some time to build diligence into your life, it will serve you well as you serve others!