Constancy is one of those beautiful old words that has fallen into disuse. And, with its loss, we lose the trait of firmness and determination in searching for what is good, in resisting temptation, in overcoming sloth, in demonstrating strength of resolve, in bending our will to reasoned choices and in overcoming the obstacles of moral life.
Constancy comes together with loyalty, both in relationships and in causes, and with perseverance, if necessary to the point of death, in facing trials, difficulties and persecutions. Constancy is the long walk in the same direction. It is the marathon of life rather than a set of short sprints.
Constancy is another foundational virtue, for it is what makes spring out of passing sparrows. It turns one good act of virtue into a habit of virtue and thereby shapes character. It creates the kind of stability that unifies your life’s projects. Seneca suggests that the greatest proof of an evil mind is that it continually wavers between the pretence of virtue and the love of vice. Constancy, instead, keeps you walking on the same path, curing your wavering and steadying your character.
Does this describe you? If so, well done, you are a constant person.
Many contemporary societies have replaced constancy with freedom, and they have seen a proliferation of the vices of fickleness, where commitments are made and easily unmade, of whimsicalness, where the wind of emotion and circumstance governs choices, of superficiality and its thin veneer of virtue, and of irresponsibility, where we refuse to be tied down to situations in which others will rely on us. There are also excesses in constancy, and we must be on guard against stubbornness, obstinacy and close-mindedness that never changes or backs down.
Do any of these describe you? If they do, and if your score in the Virtue Test was low in this virtue, then you may want to choose to work on the virtue of constancy in your character.