The first lesson I remember in practicing patience was when I was in second grade. There was a special day when Moms came for lunch and then hung out with us on the playground. I came up with a brilliant plan to show my mom how I could swing across the monkey bars. I decided I would practice skipping one bar and impress her. Each day I worked to build my strength and agility to swing from bar to bar. My hands were sore as the callus formed, but I was determined.
Finally, the day arrived, and I waited for my turn across the bars while my mom stood by to watch. As I grabbed the first rung, I felt a surge of confidence, and instead of reaching across to skip one bar I reached past two and landed myself face down in the gravel. In my efforts to show off I had by-passed the step of patiently practicing to reach a new goal.
The Waiting Game
Waiting is hard. We live in a world of self-indulgence, entitlement, and instant gratification. With fast food, movies on-demand, pre-approved credit, and immediate answers from our friends Siri and Alexa we have evolved into a society who doesn’t like to wait.
Exercising the rare virtue of patience shows the ability to put our desires on hold for a time. Unlike Veronica Salt from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory – who wants what she wants, and wants it now!
The very idea of patience can seem unpleasant. Learning to accept what cannot be changed and facing it with grace, courage, and faith is at the heart of practicing patience.
I have been practicing patience with my husband. I shared how small degrees of impatience grew into a full-on argument with my husband. Last week we had a similar thing happen. He made a comment, and I felt my heart start to harden and the resentment seeping in, but I quickly recognized what was happening. Because of my conscious effort from the last year I was able to step outside of my knee-jerk reaction and see the situation for what it was.
I attribute my reaction to several things one of which was my effort to practice patience. My initial feelings triggered a warning so I could look at what I was feeling and why: I was hangry and allowing the littlest of things to offend me. Just knowing this allowed me to take a deep breath and reset my patience.
The Patience of the Saguaro
We can learn a lot about patience from the saguaro cactus. It is native to the Sonoran Desert, and a well-known symbol of the southwest with its up-reaching arms and soaring stature. On average a saguaro will grow 1-2 inches over a 10-year period and it’s often 75 years before they even grow their first arm. They are considered to be one of the most resilient and patient of its species.
Riding through the Saguaro National Park I was impressed with these tree-like plants. Their enormous stature stands firm through drought and severe heat. Much like the saguaro, we have the ability to patiently withstand the adversities of life. Our experiences, relationships, and attitude are all a part of what shape us into the person we are becoming. We are not at the mercy of life, but at the helm, as we maneuver our way through. We can choose to react patiently when our gut tells us to hurry.
Choosing to Cultivate Patience
Have you ever considered how the lessons learned from practicing patience teaches us more than just being patient? The process is sometimes more important than the outcome.
The lessons we learn from practicing patience cultivate our character.” Dieter F. Uchtdorf
Sticking with something until the bitter end may teach us patience, but along the way we learned how to work hard, persevere, and endure. Pushing off immediate gratification helps clarify our perspective and realize what matters most in life. Bridling our knee-jerk reactions may teach us how to respond with kindness when it will do the most good. The practice of resisting an impulse proves our ability to use restraint.
God does not test our patience, he gives us opportunities to show ourselves how patient we can be.” – unknown
Who are you choosing to become? What have you been able to prove to yourself by trying to practice patience? Our abilities are often greater than we realize – we just have to take the time to stand tall as we patiently reach for the next rung.
Stay the course, and enjoy the lessons along the way.