Patience is a virtue — we’ve all heard that many times. Yet, I have always felt that though we “know” patience is important, it remains one of life’s greatest lessons. In this “day and age” of instant gratification, it sometimes seems that patience is a forgotten commodity. It is somewhat like the joke that goes “God grant me patience, and give it to me right away.”
Webster’s dictionary defines [being] patient as:
1. enduring pain, trouble, etc. without complaint
2. calmly tolerating insult, delay, confusion, etc.
3. showing calm endurance
4. diligent; persevering.
No wonder we resist being patient… After all, if we equate it with enduring pain without complaint, calmly tolerating insult, then it certainly has no appeal. It sure makes it sound like taking on the martyr role… “suffering in silence”… But is we equate it with showing calm endurance, being diligent and persevering, then we see a different aspect of patience.
I feel that the word patience is synonymous with faith. To have patience is to have faith… in ourselves, in our fellow humans, in life in general. For example, when a child is learning to talk, even though we may not understand a sound they’re saying, at first, we have patience (faith) that someday, soon, they will be able to speak clearly and be understood.
In the same way, when we are working on a project we have patience (faith) that it will work out and that we will be successful in attaining the goal we have set. Yet there are times when we give up, we lose faith, we lose patience, with ourselves and with others.
How hard it is to be patient… Sometimes we are impatient for something to end, and sometimes for something to begin. But always, impatience denotes a lack of acceptance of what is “the now”. We are impatient for tomorrow to come, we are impatient for the weekend, we are impatient for a promotion, for a raise, for a new job, for our date to arrive, for our date to leave… It seems that there are always reasons to be impatient…
Yet, if we look at the reasons for our impatience, they always show dissatisfaction with the present. We want something other than that we have now. While that, in itself, is not necessarily bad — after all, it is good to have a vision of a better life for ourselves — but to do so at the “cost” of not living and loving the live we now have is a great loss. We ignore our “now” because we have a vision of how things could or “should” be…
Another instance where patience is often sorely lacking is when dealing with our fellow human beings (and with ourselves). We get impatient because someone is “slow”, “stupid”, “opinionated”, “stubborn”, “addicted”, “arrogant”, etc. We let our impatience turn into judgment and anger, and we create mini-wars within our families, our workplace, our neighborhood. We let our impatience with the way things are be a cause of division between ourselves and others.
We even let that happen within our own being. We are impatient with ourselves (me included) for not being “good enough”… for not yet having dropped whatever habit we are trying to break… for not being the person we know we can be… for acting from our “lower self” instead of our “higher self”… We are impatient with ourselves, get angry with ourselves, and become at war with ourselves
Yet if we had patience (faith), we would see that all these things are transitory. Just as the baby learning to walk or talk has a learning process in which it makes mistakes — and tries again and again — we too make mistakes and must try and try again. But losing patience with ourselves, and with our fellow humans, does not help at all. It places us in the position of adversary rather than friend. It places us in the position of judge and jury, rather than a source of support. It creates a wall of division, rather than providing a light to make the way easier.
What is needed most in times of challenge, whether personal challenges, relationship challenges, or universal challenges, is to have faith in ourselves and faith in the human race. We must see ourselves as children learning to walk, and know that yes we will fall, we will make mistakes, but we must keep in our heart the faith that we will make it. We will succeed, eventually. We will learn to live from our “higher” self — learn to live with love, acceptance of others, and faith in them and in ourselves.
We must have patience… with everyone and everything, including ourselves. Sometimes, that patience is most needed with those closest to us. We have seen them struggle through their life for so long, that it is often too easy for us to see what they “should” do… and because of that, we judge them and feel anger, or self-righteousness. Yet, we must remember that we all once were a small child learning to walk and talk, and that even though we now have the body of an adult, inside we are still that child, learning still. The skills we now are learning are not necessarily physical — they are more emotional and spiritual. We are learning to be loving of ourselves and others, to have patience and faith in ourselves and others, to respect ourselves and others, etc.
These “life lessons” are much more challenging than learning to walk, because there are always so many temptations to take the other road… the easy road, the road of sloth or laziness, the road of judgment and criticism. It seems easier to be selfish than to be loving. It seems easier to be judgmental than be supportive. But the price we pay is great. The price is the loss of love, joy, and true inner peace. We can not be at peace with ourselves when we constantly put down our human brothers and sisters, when we ridicule them (whether silently or not), when we judge them for not “yet having it together”.
At this time of family celebrations, it can be easy to fall into those patterns… after all, it’s been years that “Jo” has been trying to quit [whatever] and is still addicted… it’s been years that “Jane” has been an overbearing and rude person…
Yet, the life lesson resides not in “their” behavior. As we all know (unconsciously at least), we can not change anyone else. We can only change ourselves. And the magical thing is that the more we become accepting (of ourselves and others), the more loving we become, the less judgmental and critical, the more the people around us (including ourselves) are able to change.
We all have somewhat of a rebel inside… and when we feel a wall of resistance, we sometimes dig in our heels… Remember when you were a teenager and your mother wanted you to do something you didn’t want to do… the more she pushed, the more you resisted.
Well, we all still have that teenager living inside, and the more we push (ourselves and others), the more resistance will come up. However, the more love and acceptance we have within our heart, the less resistance we will encounter.
Love is the answer — it is the key to unlocking the future we have dreamed of. Yet, we cannot start by asking “the others” to love us unconditionally, if we don’t first love ourselves and them unconditionally… without judgment, without criticism, without impatience. We must see the “higher self” in each person we encounter, we must know that even though the outward behavior is “less than loving”, the higher self nevertheless is there inside waiting for a chance to “rise and shine”… And the more love we have, the more patience, the more acceptance of “what is” in the moment, the less resistance we will encounter.
It is not an easy road, but it does get easier. The hard part is overcoming the inertia of past behavior and attitudes… once we open our hearts to patience, faith, unconditional love and acceptance, the path does get easier… We learn to overlook “aggravations” and “errors”… When we feel aggravated at someone (and ourselves) we might as ourselves “What difference will this make in 10 days, 10 weeks, 10 years, 10 centuries?” That might help put things into perspective.