“Patience is a virtue; possess it if you can. Seldom found in woman; never found in man.”
Whether or not you agree with this anonymous verse, most of us would agree that patience — or lack of it – plays an important role in our well-being. Waiting patiently was difficult in Bible times – numerous psalms advise us to wait for the Lord. Modern life with its emphasis on speed has made us even more impatient.
Do you ever stand by the microwave, impatient for one or two minutes to pass? Do you become restless waiting for your computer to download a document? As the world of technology moves faster, even a short wait seem like an eternity. On the other hand, the natural world takes its own sweet time, testing your patience in another way. Will those green orbs ever ripen for a juicy bacon-lettuce-and-tomato sandwich?
Sometimes our wait is indeed long and arduous. Think doctors’ visits. First the waiting room, then the examining room, then tests, if necessary. I think that may be why we are called “patients.” The wise learn to take a book along to help maintain patience.
There are different types of patience. When we were children, waiting, in anticipation for a pleasant event such as Christmas or a birthday, was grueling. Our mothers tried to direct our attention to other activities, shifting our focus and creating patience. One might add our impatience was also trying our mothers’ patience! And patience with ourselves at all stages of life – learning new procedures – how to drive, how to use a computer, how to balance our budget …
Mothers and teachers need patience as they work with children, especially those who are “difficult.” Difficult children may be overactive and highly intelligent, or they may have physical or mental disabilities. Having worked for over thirty years with children with specific learning disabilities, such as dyslexia and hyperactivity, I soon learned that a patient, firm and consistent approach can do much to help a child learn. As we are patient with ourselves, taking one step at a time, giving honest praise for each step of improvement, children learn to be patient with themselves and keep working toward the ultimate goal.
Patience comes more easily to some people than to others. When my daughter was five years old she once worked for hours gluing spaghetti to a powder box, creating a gift for a friend. I was amazed at her patience, lining up each piece perfectly, sticking to the job (literally!) until it was completed. I praised her, noting that not many five-year-olds had that much patience. Later, she yelled at her baby brother who accidently knocked over a tower she was building with her blocks. I admonished her, reminding her to have patience with him, since he was only a baby. Her reply: ”You know I used all my patience on that powder box!”
Our spiritual lives also require patience. The more we trust that God loves us and wants what is best for us, the easier it is to wait patiently when prayers seem to go unanswered. The well-known passage about love in First Corinthians 13 states that, among other things, “love is patient.” In First Thessalonians 5, Paul advises Christians to “admonish the idlers, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak and be patient with them all.”
I think St. Augustine captured the essence of patience when he said, “Patience is the companion of wisdom. “
– Mary Jo Shannon