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Patience Is a Treasure


Ephesians 4:2

“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.”

Last week I spoke about self-control – our ability to choose which inner urges to act upon and which to ignore. This week I want to speak about patience, a sibling to self-control in the family known as “fruit of the spirit”.

Patience is the ability to accept, tolerate, and handle delay, trouble, suffering, and other challenges in a calm and composed manner, without getting angry, annoyed, upset, anxious, or behaving impulsively. Like so many other characteristics, patience is a choice, and can be developed.

We often fight with our ego over controlling our choices. It is the ego that leads us to pray, “God, grant me patience; and I want it now!” Patience differentiates the mature person from the immature, the self-controlled from the rash.

Impatience presents itself in a myriad of ways. Our spouse goes out with their friends and doesn't text us back. We get anxious or angry, check our phone constantly, and maybe rapid-fire messages we later regret when we find out their phone died.

We embark on a journey of self-improvement. Frustrated by the slow pace of progress, we inadvertently sabotage things by biting off more than we can chew or, alternatively, give up. We interrupt our partner because we just know what they're going to say...and the argument escalates. We stand at an elevator and push the button repeatedly. We speed while we are driving. We get irritated waiting in line.

Sometimes I push the instant minute on the microwave instead of entering 45 seconds, because 45 seconds requires an extra button press. Speaking of microwaves, how do we learn patience in cooking when our culture is so accustomed to frozen meals, instant mashed potatoes, instant pudding, boxed cake mixes, minute rice, and fast food? There is a Japanese restaurant that offers a buffet and charges by the minute–the faster you eat, the cheaper the meal.

Technology has increased our impatience. Who doesn’t get frustrated waiting for the computer to boot up or a page to load in the phone? Thanks to Google, we now expect to have answers immediately and have little tolerance for not knowing or having to do the leg work to find out.

Amazon’s and Walmart’s two-day or next day delivery makes it unacceptable to wait weeks for whatever goody that catches our eye. We take for granted that we can have what we want when we want it, and the result is affecting our patience levels. We get angry when things are delayed. We often get bored or defeated way sooner than decades ago.

We have also become more anxious. Because we want to know-it-now and have-it-now, we disdain waiting, and look upon things as more urgent. Stress builds in the body and conflict in the mind. Anxiety constricts our attention so that the perceived crisis is all we can focus on. Our intolerance for distress compels us to be impulsive and impatient. Urgency, anxiety, and distress drain us of peace and patience.

Lao Tzu, Taoist teacher said, “I have just three things to teach: simplicity, patience, compassion. These three are your greatest treasures.” Patience is a treasure.

Proverbs 15:18 teaches - “Hot tempers cause arguments, but patience brings peace.” Patience is a pathway to peace.

There are many benefits to patience. It brings excellence in the work that we do and in every endeavor we pursue. Athletes, artists, craftspeople of all kinds know the value of patience and practice. I may have wanted to become a music teacher, but it still took me six years to accomplish it.

The seasons teach us patience if we allow them. Buddhists teach that nothing stays the same; impermanence is what defines life. We may be in the spring season of our life right now, but the other seasons are just around the corner. We must be patient as we pass through the various and constantly changing seasons of our lives.

Patience helps us make better decisions, increases hope, and reduces stress. When we are patient, we turn off the fight or flight reflex: our muscles relax, our blood vessels dilate, our heart slows, and our blood pressure drops; T-cells are formed again to ward off disease, which helps us live a long and healthy life.

Patience distances us from anger, provides more of what we want when dealing with our loved ones and people in general. “Love is patient; love is kind.” If we are impatient with those around us for their imperfections, we are destined for discontent.

And this is perhaps one of the primary reasons we become impatient: we expect people and situations to be perfect. Our ego tells us that our ways, expectations, and opinions are correct. We expect people to behave as we want. We expect things to work out right. We expect technology to make things easier and faster. We expect perfection so become impatient when it does not occur.

Developing patience may require a change in attitude. We would be more patient if we understood that life is not complete; it is not perfect. It is messy, with loose ends, and filled with people who are just as imperfect as we are, all trying their best with the resources that they have available to them and in them.

We need to know that we can be patient, and patience is good, a powerful ally. It is not a weakness; it is a strength. There are times when we need to step back, take a breath, and realize that the journey is as important as the destination.

Part of developing patience, as I always mention, is through awareness, being mindful. It is important to notice what is happening internally and create a dialog and narrate our feelings and the reasons for those feelings. “I am really feeling impatient right now, because I feel like it needs to be handled immediately. But does it need to be handled immediately? Is it truly a life-or-death crisis? I want to fix this now, but there is no need to be impulsive. I can practice patience. It is not a crisis. I will wait and see how things play out. It will likely be fine.”

To strengthen this virtue, we can identify triggers: Recognize what situations or people tend to make us feel impatient and try to avoid or prepare for them. When going to DMV we can change our self-talk. Instead of saying, “I knew it. This is always a mess,” we can say, “Nothing can disturb the calm peace of my soul.” Then we can use all that extra time to plan other projects or pray.

Whatever our goals, whether it is to change our prayer habits or develop more patience, we can set realistic goals and expectations. We can break down larger goals into smaller, more manageable steps, and be patient with ourselves as we work towards them.

Other tips for developing patience include choosing a healthier lifestyle: Exercise regularly, eat a balanced diet, and get enough sleep to help reduce stress and increase our overall well-being. We can practice relaxing hobbies or activities, engage in activities that help us relax and unwind, such as reading, listening to music, or spending time in nature. We can give ourselves a time out.

We can learn to be better listeners. We can practice active listening skills, such as paying attention to what others are saying without interrupting or judging them. We can understand that patience is not the same as passivity or resignation. It is an active choice to remain calm and focused in the face of challenges.

One final tip regarding patience, we can accept what we can’t change. We can recognize that there are some things that are beyond our control and focus on what we can do to make the best of the situation. People around us will appreciate our patience. A moment of patience can save a relationship and a thousand moments of regret and shame.

Life is about waiting. Everything has its time, and it takes as long as it takes. This applies to ourselves. St. Francis de Sales wrote, “Have patience with all things, but chiefly have patience with yourself…everyday begin the task anew.

Psalm 37:7 teaches, “Rest in the LORD and wait patiently for Him; Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, Because of the man who carries out wicked schemes.” It is my prayer that we trust in the Lord, trust in God’s working through us. I pray that we release fear and anxiety and move into a space of peace, joy, and love. May we know that God is always with us, even when we are waiting for the elevator door to open.

God tells us in Habakkuk 2:3, But these things I plan won't happen right away. Slowly, steadily, surely, the time approaches when the vision will be fulfilled. If it seems slow, wait patiently, for it will surely take place. It will not be delayed!

Be patient.


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