Chaplain's thought for the week
Revd Tom considers how we can develop more patience
Most of us would like to be more patient. Chaucer called it a ‘conquering virtue’. We can even find that we are impatient with ourselves because we are so impatient!
There are so many things about which to be impatient: people who talk too slowly or too much; a friend who tells us the same story three times; queues when you’re in a rush; computers that don’t do what (we think) we’ve told them; bad WIFI connections; brothers or sisters quarrelling with each other; traffic jams when you need to get somewhere.
How can we be more patient with the frustrations life throws at us? Perhaps the most important thing is to recognise is that very often we have little power to change the external things in our lives. However, we can develop in how we respond to them. Life involves frustrations and pain-in-the-neck situations – we can’t change that – but we can choose how we respond. Responding with anger and frustration only serves to make us unhappy. Instead perhaps we can see the adversities we face as a chance to develop patience. Hellen Keller, who faced the great challenge of being both blind and deaf, said this: ‘We could never learn to be brave and patient, if there were only joy in the world.’
I wonder if one of the reasons so many of want to be more patient is that we fly around in a ridiculously busy world in which we cram our lives too full, so we’re impatient when anything slows us up. But perhaps that’s simply because we’re trying to live life at too fast a pace. Maybe we just need to slow down, cram less activities into our diaries, and will then find that we’ve got more time and therefore more patience.
In particular, lots of us would like to be more patient towards other people. St. Paul writes that we should live life ‘with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love’. As with situations, so with people: we have little power to control how people act around us, but we do have power over how we respond to them. Getting impatient with other people actually only serves to make us more upset internally. So the key thing we need to develop is acceptance: acceptance of other people as they are. Often the key thing we need to do is let go – let go of that which makes us angry about other people because we don’t need to hold onto that anger.
Patience means that we can accept the world as it is and others as they are. It gives us the recognition that is not actually the situations themselves or other people which make us impatient, but really our reaction to situations or other people which makes us impatient. If we develop patience, then we are able to cope with what the world throws at us and we will find that we are much happier as a result.