Several times – including in this week’s portion (Deut. 9:6) – the Torah calls Israel am k’shei-oref, a stiff-necked people. In today’s idiom “stiff-necked” means intransigent, unbending, rigid, can’t be budged, impossible to move.
There was once a notice put up by a stiff-necked person on his office wall, “Don’t confuse me with logic. My mind’s made up!” It seems that being stiff-necked is not highly regarded.
However, the opposite is no great bargain either – being weak, vacillating, bending with the wind, constantly compromising with principles. Some politicians have their own take on this characteristic when they say “I never promised to keep my promises!”
The best way is probably to have the instinct to know when to be insistent and when to be pragmatic. Being insistent means having the steady nerves to maintain one’s standards regardless of the changing fashions; being pragmatic means being aware that new circumstances sometimes call for a new approach.