I don’t consider myself particularly patient because I hate wasting time. I like to plan ahead and organize specifically so I don’t waste my time. And excessive waiting —well, it’s just so boring and useless. I suppose I subscribe to Henry David Thoreau’s observation:
The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.”-Henry David Thoreau
Life is so precious, and there are so many important and wonderful things we can do with it. Maybe this is why I really don’t like wasting it.
I’ve always felt that the word patience was a little elusive. For a long time, I imagined it to mean I sit in a very long drive-through line until the end of time with a big smile on my face because I’m so patient. Or I enjoy waiting two hours for a doctor appointment because I’m just patient. It seems like we are supposed to be patient because it’s a good quality, but it seems there aren’t really any positive outcomes of patience, just a lot of time given to things we don’t particularly like. Is that all patience is?
Not exactly. Let’s start with the definition:
- The quality of being patient, as the bearing of provocation, annoyance, misfortune, or pain, without complaint, loss of temper, irritation, or the like.
- An ability or willingness to suppress restlessness or annoyance when confronted with delay: to have patience with a slow learner.
- Quiet, steady perseverance; even-tempered care; diligence.
What it is Not
So, fundamentally, patience is not acting snippy with the teenager at the window in the drive-through or bouncing off walls while waiting at the doctor’s office. (Just because I don’t like wasting time doesn’t mean I can’t be nice while I’m wasting time.) I think this means patience has other names, such as compassion and kindness. It doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t care the line is taking a very long time to get through, it just means you can be nice about it.
Sometimes we can exhibit patience in a way that goes unnoticed. I have a lot of interaction with a person who sometimes points out my impatience. What I usually say to this person in my own head is: Oh, you have no idea how very patient I am. I am being patient with a lot of things this person doesn’t realize are very difficult for me to deal with. Just because you don’t see someone being patient with you doesn’t mean they aren’t.
I recently read an article called “What We Learn as We Develop Patience,” and it has changed my perspective. The author, Natalia, quoted Romans 5:3-5, which actually made me get teary because I realized what I’d been missing.
And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.”~Paul (Romans 5:3-5)
I love how Paul says patience leads to experience and then hope. This is what I felt was so tender. Life is a collection of experiences. It’s a whole bunch of chances to grow, to learn, to become a better YOU. This is the positive outcome of patience.
Tribulation and then patience and then experience make us more compassionate. They teach us lessons in very personal ways. Have you ever (maybe without realizing it) passed judgment on someone going through something you think shouldn’t be such a big deal or something you think would never happen to you? Have you ever then had the same experience later and all of a sudden had a lot more empathy for anyone going through it? If it hasn’t happened to you, I hope it does, only because it’s one of the best teachers of compassion and withholding judgment.
Patience, then, is simply part of a process. It is intended to be a part of our life’s experiences leading us to hope.
What We Overlook about Patience
I think one thing we often overlook is what we are having patience WITH or IN. This goes back to the dictionary definition of patience. You may have noticed each part of the definition relates to something or someone. It’s not just a general attitude where nothing ever bugs you. It is choosing to be kind, calm, compassionate, and hopeful, especially when it would be easier not to be.
Like you, I have difficult circumstances in my life now and again. When I’m trying to be patient with a situation, I’m focused on the situation, and patience is often nowhere to be found. This makes sense–I want the struggle to be over or the problem to stop. I’m sick of it. However, looking at the same situation with patience IN someone makes a huge difference. I can more easily be patient with someone who doesn’t have much experience or with someone I realize hasn’t learned yet what I already know. It takes the focus off the frustrations of the situation and allows me to more easily invoke those feelings of compassion and hope.
My Best Chance for Patience
Hope is such a big part of patience. We often think of hope as a wish. In the greater scheme of things, though, it’s much different. Jeffrey R. Holland said:
Hope with a capital H…is doctrinal. … I’m not talking about wishful thinking, I’m talking about doctrinal hope: that God’s grace is sufficient.” ~Jeffrey R. Holland
Or, put another way, hope is “the confident expectation of and longing for … promised blessings.”
This makes all the difference to me. When I look at a situation alone, it can be easy to just want it to be over. (I probably say, “I’m done” a little too much.) But when I look at the situation as having patience in God and His timing, it helps me tremendously. It honestly changes everything. Yes, I still want the problem to end, but it’s easier for me to look for the positive, see what I’m supposed to be learning, and be patient with His handling of the issue because I know He has it covered and eventually it will work out.
My best chance of developing patience is to trust God. He knows what we need to learn from this experience we call life. He will make sure everybody learns it. I don’t need to get worked up about it. Because I have seen what He can do, I know being patient with Him is my best choice. I can wait for Him all day long.
What Patience Really Means
Patience, then, is not the ability to wait through long lines without caring, it’s the ability to not let it affect how you treat others. It is just a part of the journey, part of a process designed to make us who we really are. So let our problems lead us to grow in patience, and patience to experience and then hope.