Patience is a trait that is sometimes viewed as a strength, oftentimes mistaken for a weakness and generally misunderstood. When I think about patience, I consider it to be an expression of humility and love. Pride and arrogance would demand that things would move at the pace of our self: that our timing would be right. It demands that it gets what is owed, when it is owed. It keeps a balance sheet and anyone who falls behind is, justly, left behind. Pride and arrogance insist that their way and timing is, of course, best.
Patience is lovingly moving at a pace slower than the one at which you are capable, for the sake of another. It focuses less on what the self can accomplish and more on what is accomplished together. Sometimes, we are even forced to be patient because what we desire is entirely outside of our influence or control. In such cases, we find that we must surrender control and find something or someone in which we can trust.
Patience always costs us something. In one of the running books I read (and I read a similar thing about swimming), when we train for a long time in running or swimming, our natural pace becomes very economical and efficient. Afterwards, if we force ourselves to move at a pace slower than the one we naturally perform in, we have to work harder and be more attentive to our movements. This is not easy or intuitive.
Without patience we might respond to delay or slowness with anger, shaming, frustration, hopelessness, apathy, judgment, etc. It is likely we would also feel justified in our behavior. We are right to feel this way, are we not? ‘Look at how I am hindered!’ we proclaim. How much harder is it to seek to choose the path of empathy and compassion, and act instead with patience?
I find it interesting how little people seem to cultivate patience in our society while conversely treasuring dearly those who show us patience in times of difficulty and struggle. I believe that patience is like a muscle; it can be strengthened and developed over time. Consider a two-year-old and the patience they often show when faced with a seemingly insurmountable task. It does not take long for a tantrum to ensue. Are there not places in our own lives where we do the equivalent? And yet over the last decade I feel like I have witnessed a decrease in kindness, patience, compassion and generosity of spirit from adults.
Part of me wonders if this is shaped by the nationalistic tendencies of our country (the good ‘ol USA). Our ongoing rhetoric of being the “greatest,” if true, carries with it a heavy choice. If we are, in fact, the greatest wouldn’t it also follow that we must, if we love, also be the most patient? If we are not, it seems to me that we are choosing arrogance and pride instead (companions of hatred). This is not what I want for myself or for the people of my country. I hope that someday others might describe us as models of patience and humility (fruits of the Spirit and expressions of love) rather than bullies.