Patience: A Wise Response to Life

Excessities are at war with patience

Posted Jan 03, 2017

In today’s society, we have come to expect the instantaneous, the rapid, the quick, the get-it-done-right-now.  We are simply impatient people.  We used to have a higher capacity for patience, but it keeps getting whacked off -- primarily as a result of advances in technology. 

Cell phones, email, texting, and twittering create their own expectation momentum. What used to be considered just waiting now must be endured with patience. Patience really means being put off.  Nobody likes being put off.  

Excessities are at war with patience.  The Gotta Have It! cry of an excessity is generally followed by the unspoken command of Now!  The longer you are required to wait, the louder that command becomes until it’s so shrill that it’s all you hear.  The internal clamor of the excessity creates its own urgency.  What was a desire becomes a necessity.  And a necessity deferred becomes an emergency. 

Once you’ve declared your own emergency, you have provided built-in justification for whatever measures are required to satisfy your Gotta Have It!  At this point, patience is a hindrance, a barrier between you and your excessity. 

The world does not see patience as a position of strength but rather as a position of weakness, of wanting, of lack.  Powerful people don’t have to wait; powerless people do.  This is a fundamental misunderstanding of patience.  Patience allows you to take back control over the capricious and unstable world and plant that control firmly within yourself.  Patience does not give you the power over circumstances; patience allows you to control yourself in the midst of circumstances. 

Patience, as an attitude, had been misunderstood.  I’d like to go over some of the realities and truths of patience. 

Patience is not apathy.  Apathy is a lack of interest or concern.  Being patient does not mean disengaging or disconnecting from your feelings or emotions.  Being patient means accepting both how you feel about a given situation and what you can realistically do about it. 

Patience is not surrender.  A decision to exercise is not the equivalent of waving the white flag.  When you surrender, you place yourself under the control of the situation and remove yourself from the equation.

Patience is not static.  There is a misconception that patience, or the act of waiting, is just sitting there, doing nothing.  In this, patience is a little like sleep.  When we’re sleeping, it can appear that we’re doing nothing -- we’re just sleeping.  Sleep, however, is a highly dynamic process where the body is actively engaged in repairing itself.  Patience, like sleep, is the act of preparing for the new day to come. 

Patience is optimistic expectation.  The engine of patience is hope.  Apathy says, Give up; there is no hope.  Patience says, Stick with it; there is reason to hope.  You cannot be patient if you’ve given up all hope, because there would be nothing to be patient for. 

Patience is based on the end, not the beginning.  How often do we begin something full of pride but fail to stick with it to completion?  Pride may motivate us to start, but patience gives us the endurance to see it through to the better end.      

Patience is based on the long view.  The view of patience is not a few steps in front of us.  The view of patience is out over the horizon, around the bend, through the hills and valleys of life.  Patience is not thwarted by the immediate; it is sustained by the eventual.  When you are assured of the eventual, you can patiently endure the immediate. 

Patience is a wise response to life.  This life is offensive 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.

Patience is an acquired trait.  We are not born patient.  Patience is something we need to grow into.  It is a character trait learned through life experiences.  Those who fail to learn patience are destined to continue to find themselves in situations where they’ll need it.  The wise thing to do would be to learn the lesson, because trials and problems won’t change.  The only thing you can truly change is yourself. 

Authored by Dr. Gregory Jantz, founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE  and author of 35 books. Pioneering whole-person care nearly 30 years ago, Dr. Jantz has dedicated his life’s work to creating possibilities for others, and helping people change their lives for good. The Center • A Place of HOPE, located on the Puget Sound in Edmonds, Washington, creates individualized programs to treat behavioral and mental health issues, including eating disorders, addiction, depression, anxiety and others.

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