Saturday, March 20, 2010

Word Wonder -- stable

Saturday, March 20, 2010

1. Standing frimly in place; not easily moved, shaken or overthrown; fixed. 2. Marked by fixity of purpose; steadfast. 3. Having durability or permanence; abiding. [From the French and before that the Latin stabilis, which means "to stand"] - Funk & Wagnalls Canadian College Dictionary

Last week a friend asked me to look into the word "stable." The word comes from the ancient Indo-European root sta-, which means "to stand" and has given us a number of related words:
  • stable -- firm or permanent
  • stable -- a building that houses horses or cattle
  • state -- a political area or standing
  • steady -- firm
  • stay -- remain
  • stand -- to be upright
  • establish -- to set up
It may be that sta- first  meant the stable for horses and cattle. These animals were extremely valuable assets, so they would have been housed in a strong structure, one that would be able to withstand storms, able to protect the beasts within.

Certainly these same attributes apply to other uses of "stable." Today we speak of a stable economy, a stable relationship, a stable person. In all cases, we refer to someone or something that protects valuable assets and can withstand the winds of change and adversity.  Internal solidity and some flexibility combine to create a stable entity.Things remain on an even keel most of the time. A stable entity can be relied up to do what it was intended to do; it can be trusted. It requires maintenance but is established on a firm foundation.

How does a person become stable, firm, solid? The attitudes and skills that comprise stability can be learned at any time. Though a stable childhood can be a help in this, it is by no means a requirement.  I believe the following are examples of the skills and attitudes that lead to personal stability:
  • a sense of one's own value -- not conceit, but an honest appreciation of one's worth
  • honesty -- deep, internal honesty, not just the kind that keeps your hands out of the till
  • openness -- a willingness to consider new ideas and views, no matter where they come from
  • appreciation -- of life, others, and oneself
  • humility -- awareness that one's existence and viewpoint are just one of many and that all are valid
  • flexibility -- knowing that change is inevitable and is not a personal attack or failing
  • serenity -- inner calm, a belief that things will work out, emotional evenness
  • focus -- the ability to make decisions and stick with them
No person, even the most stable person, maintains his or her evenness at all times, in all situations. Stability is by its very nature a flexible, adaptable condition; it implies overall evenness, not absolute evenness.

Just as a horse stable is constructed one hammer blow and saw cut at a time, personal stability is built from a myriad small decisions made over time: the decision to accept responsibility for an error; the decision to open one's mind and appreciate another person's contribution or to open one's eyes and appreciate the beauty of rolling hills or the shape of a tree; the decision to fulfill one's commitments. And so on and so on.

Stable. Firm. Steadfast. Like a four-legged stool, a stable person doesn't collapse easily and can do the job for which he or she was made. Anyone who wants to can learn to do decision at a time.

1 comment:

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