A Catholic Monthly Magazine

Tapping into the Power of Patience

By Victor M Parachin

By Victor Parachin

‘Patience is not passive, on the contrary, it is concentrated strength.’
Bruce Lee

‘Patience doesn’t mean passivity or resignation, but power. It's an emotionally freeing practice of waiting, watching, and knowing when to act.’
 Judith Orloff, MD

These pieces of wisdom are strong reminders that patience is a vital life skill. Without it we give up prematurely, feel victimised, complain incessantly, irritate others, antagonise family, frustrate colleagues, blunder badly and behave irrationally. No one has to be like that. Anyone can cultivate this ability. Here are some insights about patience and how to tap into it's power.

Patience is already present in your life. "The fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness," writes the apostle Paul, indicating that patience is a virtue currently available in our lives. (Galatians 5:23 New International Version) Because this quality exists, all that is necessary is to deepen it through practice. Examine your own life closely and you will see the many times you are already working with patience. For example, you put up with seasonal allergies, an unpleasant work colleague, an irritating in-law, an insensitive, rude customer. The key for building more patience is to begin using life's natural irritants and frustrations as practice opportunities. Of course, daily living provides an abundance of moments for practicing patience. So, the next time you are in a long line at the post office, just say to yourself, “I will be patient and content.” Or the next time traffic is heavy and slow, just say to yourself, “I will be patient and content.” And, yet on another occasion when you are on time for a meeting but others wander in late, just say to yourself, “I will be patient and content.”

Patience saves time and money. Anytime you lose the ability to remain calm and steady, the result can be costly in terms of time and money. Writer Jim Stone, PhD., tells of a common scenario.
"I was at the grocery store with a sandwich and a pint of milk in my hands, barely on time to pick up my daughter from school, and I had picked the wrong line." The cashier was engaged in a conversation with the manager. Dr. Stone watched as the other line moved forward smoothly while he stood still. "I was getting impatient. I considered switching lines, but the other line had grown longer than when I had arrived. So I left. I walked to the front of my line, plopped down my sandwich and milk and walked out of the store. I got in my car and drove to another grocery store a mile down the road and bought lunch there." Looking back on his action, he acknowledged that his impatience had led to an irrational act. It took more time to drive to the second store and buy the items than it would have taken to remain in line at the first store. In this case, his impatience merely cost him some time. He realised, however, that his other moments of impatience could have been far more costly. "While impatient in traffic I’ve made unnecessary, and sometimes risky, lane changes. While impatient building my business, I’ve been drawn in by promising-looking shortcuts that cost me weeks of work that should have been spent working on my original plan." 

Patience is an important anger management tool. Therapist Ker Cleary says: “Patience is the antidote to anger. If we are irritated or angry or even feel violent impulses, we can actually learn to wait until the feelings pass, which they will. Anger can be difficult to work with, because it so strongly compels us to action. We often feel we will have no relief until we let it all out. In truth, we always do harm when we act out of anger, whether towards another being, a circumstance, or ourselves.” So, use patience as a method for creating a pause before reacting to a person or an unwelcome event. That way you become a nicer person who is responsive rather than reactive.

Patience helps overcome discouragement. "Patience is the capacity to welcome difficulty when it comes, with a spirit of strength, endurance, forbearance, and dignity rather than fear, anxiety, and avoidance," states author Norman Fischer. Without patience people are more likely to give in and give up. An example of someone who used patience to succeed is that of Michael Imperioli, an American actor and screen writer: “When I went to acting school I thought that in a couple of months I’d start working on TV and be making all kinds of money – I was that naive. It was four years before I got a part in a play, which didn’t pay any money, and then another four years after that before I started making a living. If I had known how long it would take, I don’t know if I would have done it.” Additionally, it’s worth noting that while Imperioli was waiting to “make it” as an actor he worked away quietly and patiently at jobs such as busboy, waiter, bartender and cook. Patience combined with persistence empowered him to evade discouragement. All too often, life fulfilment, happiness and success eludes many people, not because they are lacking in talent or knowledge but because they are lacking in patience.

Patience is vital to spiritual growth. This is something taught both in the bible as well as in the writings of saintly women and men. Consider these biblical statements: 

• Isaiah 40:31 - "They who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.

• James 5: 7-8 - "Be patient, then, brothers and sisters . . .See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm."

• 1 Thessalonians 5:14 - "Encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone."

• Psalm 37:7-8 "Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret - it leads only to evil."

• Proverbs 15:18 - "A hot-tempered person stirs up conflict, but the one who is patient calms a quarrel."

Also, consider these insights from spiritually advanced individuals such as:

• Augustine - "Patience is the companion of wisdom."

• Thomas Aquinas - "Patience is one of the humble, workaday virtues; but it is, in a real sense, the root and guardian of all virtues, not causing them, but removing obstacles to their operation. Do away with patience and the gates are open for a flood of discontent and sin."

• Peter Marshall - "Teach us, O Lord, the disciplines of patience, for to wait is often harder than to work."

• A. W. Tozer - "What then are we to do about our problems? We must learn to live with them until such time as God delivers us from them…we must pray for grace to endure them without murmuring. Problems patiently endured will work for our spiritual perfecting. They harm us only when we resist them or endure them unwillingly."

Patience is a wise response to life. 

Author and psychologist Gregory L. Jantz, Ph.D., states that life is constantly challenging in so many ways. "People can be mean, cruel, and hurtful. Circumstances can be sudden, unpredictable, and damaging. We may feel as if we live under siege from something or someone most of the time. In response, you could go around getting angry and engaging in battle over every slight and unfair circumstance. You can be quick to anger and ready to explode. But remaining in full battle mode is not a wise way to live your life. It produces incredible stress, alienates the people around you, and distorts your ability to enjoy and appreciate life."

So, the wise and skilful way to deal with life's frustrations is with an abundance of patience.


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