16th January 2019

Proclivity and/or Propensity?

“For I know your eagerness to help, and I have been boasting about it to the Macedonians, telling them that since last year you in Achaia were ready to give; and your enthusiasm has stirred most of them to action.”
2 Corinthians 9:2 (NIV)

It has long been a tradition in our family to play word games. We try to discover new words or discuss the meaning of words with a view to outsmarting each other. Bearing this in mind, recently I found myself wondering what the difference was in the meaning of ‘proclivity’ and ’propensity.’ In the Oxford dictionary the definition of the word ‘proclivity’ is: A tendency to choose or do something regularly; an inclination or predisposition towards a particular thing. I then looked up ‘propensity’ to find that it read; an inclination or natural tendency to behave in a particular way. Not satisfied at the lack of clarity of these definition, I looked up the Latin derivation for each. The word ‘proclivity’ comes from proclivitas which means ‘forward, down’ + clivus ‘slope’. The word ‘propensity’ comes from propensus which means ready, willing, eager, favourably disposed.

At this point of reading, you may well be justified in thinking that I need to get a life. However, it was intriguing for me to discover the comparison between the English and the Latin explanations. I now understand that ‘proclivity’ really means leaning forward and that propensity means ready, willing, eager and favourably disposed.

So now the justification of this study! As Christians, these nouns are characteristics we need to adopt and develop when it comes to our relationship with Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour. Some theologians refer to Christians needing to have a ‘posture of faith’ i.e. eyes forward and arms outreached.

I suggest that though these metaphoric poses are correct, I believe we also need to lean on Christ. He can take our weight. He will carry us and relieve us of our burdens. Matthew 11:28-29 urges us, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Our proclivity needs to be Christ-centred – we need to lean on Him for our every need.

To have a propensity for Christ is to be ready, willing and eager to follow Him and to worship and serve Him. The Apostle Paul warns us in Romans 12:11 “Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervour, serving the Lord.” Enthusiasm and fervour are infectious as Paul noted in the header scripture. There we have it, two nouns proclivity and propensity – the distinguishing qualities of a Christian.

Father, we lean on you with eager and willing hearts. Our flesh is weak, and we ask your forgiveness for letting down. By your power help us to stay focussed on you, our Lord Jesus Christ.

Study by Irene Wilson

About the Author:
Irene Wilson is a Deaconess in the Watford Congregation of Grace Communion International, where she also serves on the Pastoral Council.

Local Congregation:
Gracecom Watford
St. Peter’s Church
61 Westfield Avenue
Watford, Herts.
WD24 7HF

Meeting Time:
Saturday 11AM

Local Congregational Contact:
George Henderson
Phone: 01923-855570
Email: george.sueann.henderson49@gmail.com

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