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The Power of Patience

24th November 2022

“Love is patient and kind…” (1 Corinthians 13:4)

 

HOM: Managing impulsivity

Patience is certainly something that my secondary school maths teacher had in abundance. It was due to his patience that I was able to achieve a reasonable pass in my O-level (I am pre-GCSE in age!) maths. Mr Roake was a kind teacher who exhibited love for his pupils through infinite patience, gently explaining time and time again a maths problem with which we struggled. His patience was in contrast to my own impatience which wanted answers and easy results right away.

Patience is ‘the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset’. It is largely about enduring something and controlling your emotions, both of which I sometimes found difficult when it came to the learning of maths! The calm patience of Mr Roake taught me not only about maths but perseverance in the face of setbacks and the regulation of my emotions. It taught me that impatience would get me nowhere and that a steady calm approach to problem solving was the road to greater progress.

My frustration and lack of patience was towards myself in this case, but how much more important is patience towards others. Patience is often named as a virtue and St. Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians lists it as one of the marks of characteristics of agape, love. Agape is a love that is not self-serving and wishes the best for others. It is not a love that counts the cost but gives unreservedly to the deserving and undeserving alike. I’m not sure that the patience I received from Mr Roake was always deserving, yet it ultimately transformed my ability to persevere in the face of setbacks and to overcome frustration.

In our lives we face many situations which will test our patience and many people who will test our patience too! Patience is often contrary to our first instincts and then we need to manage our impulsivity. Patience involves taking time to understand another person’s point of view and withholding any hasty judgments. 

Like any virtue it is a skill that we have to learn and practice because few of us have it naturally, but it benefits both our ability to persist in difficult situations and improves our relationships with those around us. Being calm and patient can be hard but some of the following techniques can help us pause and calm down in the heat of the moment:

  • Take a few deep breaths
  • Walk away for a little bit
  • Consciously relax
  • Remember to put things in perspective – will this matter next week?
  • Think before you speak

With all that in mind, this week we enter the Christian season of Advent which is a time of waiting and preparation before Christmas. It is a time for developing patience. If you have an advent calendar I wonder if you will be able to manage your impulsivity and not open all the doors of your calendar before the allotted time. It can be tempting, but we know that that we cannot speed up time and that there are important lessons we can learn in waiting itself.

As the poet RS Thomas wrote it may be that actually ‘the meaning is in the waiting’.

Kneeling

BY R. S. THOMAS

Moments of great calm,
Kneeling before an altar
Of wood in a stone church
In summer, waiting for the God
To speak; the air a staircase
For silence; the sun’s light
Ringing me, as though I acted
A great rôle. And the audiences
Still; all that close throng
Of spirits waiting, as I,
For the message.
Prompt me, God;
But not yet. When I speak,
Though it be you who speak
Through me, something is lost.
The meaning is in the waiting.

 

Christine Crossley

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