The Powerful Virtue of Patience

One dictionary lists as its first definition of patience this one: the power of suffering with fortitude; uncomplaining endurance of evils or wrongs, as toil, pain, poverty, insult, oppression, calamity, etc. However, I prefer these: the act or power of calmly or contentedly waiting for something due or hoped for; forbearance; and constancy in labor or application; perseverance. These speak more to the application of patience as an attribute of personal power. No doubt patience is not held in the high regard it once was in our fast-paced goal-oriented culture.

As Charlotte Gilman said, "There was a time when Patience ceased to be a virtue. It was long ago". We may have lost a sense of what it means to defer our pleasures and acquisitions.

It may even seem that the impatient person is a personality type, a "power" driver, which is a key to success and one that we all should emulate.Yet, a Chinese proverb suggests: One moment of patience may ward off great disaster. One moment of impatience may ruin a whole life. These are dire warnings to be sure but maybe not so overstated. Most of us taking stock of our lives and looking for new answers to coping and living life in a truly meaningful and powerful way, have likely rejected the traditional paths to "power" and success, and may be willing to reconsider patience as a virtue in light of our past mistakes and experiences. In fact, they are our greatest ally as we strive towards a new relationship with the world and its inhabitants.

Helen Keller said that we could never learn to be brave and patient if there were only joy in the world".As an attribute of personal power, patience speaks primarily to our psychospiritual orientation. In other words, being patient is primarily about being at peace with the pace and tempo of life. Had we only to worry about our own choices of course, this would be only a minor problem. We also are forced to interact on a daily basis with a wide range of individuals with their own issues and agendas.

And then there are world events, the macro effects of many individuals working with or against one another. All of these challenges conspire to make finding peace and serenity a seemingly insurmountable obstacle. Yet people do it all the time, and so can we. We've all experienced the pressing urgency of impatience, our need to see our plans unfold as we think they should.

When these are frustrated, we predictably respond out of our core emotions - fear and shame. And here is where we lose our power, relinquishing our energies to the insatiable need of our ego for its own gratification - whether venting anger and frustration or invoking a frenzy of activity to ward of guilt. These more or less unconscious drives dominate individuals all the time and we have seem it in our selves as well.In addition to the usual anger outbursts, a lifestyle of impatience will manifest a whole range of other uncomfortable emotions and experiences. Maybe we have become frustrated or resentful in our seemingly hopeless quest for satisfaction and become a member of the ``throw away'' generation, discarding relationships, people, jobs, and school whenever things are not working out as quickly as you want them to. Maybe you turn a cold shoulder to the others in your life who want to support you, but whom you offend by accusing them (when change is slow) of ``not helping you enough.

'', or maybe what others offer does not conform to your immediate goals and we are wiling to sacrifice friendships and relationships prematurely. In this same mindset, it is easy to ignore the positive gains you have made; only concentrating on what has not yet been accomplished. Once you burn yourself out in the pursuit of your goals we often become pessimistic about life, seeing only the ``half empty cup'' rather than the ``half filled cup.'' We can become overwhelmed by the looming obstacles and lose hope and motivation to move forward.

Wasting energy worrying about how slow things are changing instead of directing that energy toward the changes you desire is the ultimate disempowerment of impatience.The true "virtue" of patience is to employ it to overcome this self-defeating pattern. Ideally, we'd like to let go of this need for immediate gratification and be able to wait for an expected outcome without experiencing anxiety, tension, or frustration. In this mode we will display tolerance, compassion, understanding, and acceptance toward those around us rather than reacting to them as frustrators of our goals.

By the same token, we'll accept our human frailty in the pursuit of personal, physical, emotional, and spiritual growth and won't be overwhelmed by the set backs and reversals inevitable in the quest for success and personal growth. Hopefully, we will be able to recapture our belief in the concepts of permanence and commitment and will be more loving and considerate as you handle the growth issues in your committed relationships in marriage, family, career, community, or church. We have achieved some degree of power when we accept that there is no need to rush ourselves or others and making our vision materialize, or even in facing the routine challenges of life.

The changes we'll need to make to achieve this higher state are cognitive, behavioral and spiritual. Maybe that's why patience is not easier to attain, it is a complex and multi-dimensional phenomena that takes a concerted effort to integrate changes in all these areas. And sometimes it is hard to make these changes without triggering more impatience - sort of a catch-22 isn't it? However, we can provide some general guidelines for how to get there:.Develop a measured philosophy of life - that measure should be only one day at a time. Each day is a gift that takes us another step forward, and not always in the direction we have planned.

In this context we can begin to reframe our perspective on the past, present, and future, neither dwelling on past mistakes and failings nor worrying about what we will become or how we will act or respond in the future. At the outset, it will be useful to confront your fears about attaining your goal; if our efforts are all fear-driven, we may need to revise goals in light of this awareness. If our general goals are flexible, we can relax a bit more. Begin to live each new day as a fresh start - getting one step closer to our goal assuming more personal power. Accept the reality of our human existence in that we need time, effort, and energy to change and grow.Be systematic in planning for the changes you want to make.

It will help if you break larger goals down into components that are of shorter term duration. These objectives can be more realistically attained in the immediate future. However, do not set a rigid timetable unless you want you feel frustrated all over again. As a matter of fact, account for the "unexpected factor" in you plan. Not only will you experience resistance to altering long standing, habitual ways of acting, reacting, and believing, but the universe cooperates in its own way and seems to have plans for us that we didn't anticipate.

Know that becoming patients means we will have to encounter events and experiences that test this very thing we are working on. These are all our opportunities for growth. Remember that change is a process, not a destination; better learn to enjoy the ride.

Be as realistic as you can about the human environment in which you live. Everyone with whom you come in contact is busy working through their own struggles, weaknesses, setbacks, relapses, crises, and impediments to their personal journey and their own goals. We are all in pursuit of something; there are few so evolved as to be exempt, so our goals and agendas will clash with others. They will be a priority only for us so take this into account when you are pushing in on a door that swings out. Expect that actualization of your long-terms goals is indeed a long-term project, and to the degree you can make your goals congruent with those around you, the more successful you are likely to be.

In this context, the worthiness of your goals, in terms of how they will do the greatest good for the greatest number, is a consideration you would do well to internalize.Modify your psychospiritual perspective to include the divine as a primary support on your journey. A knowledge that we are not in this deal alone, and that all will unfold as it should, can help deepen our respect for the unknown and be more patient. If we understand that we are not god, we can more easily accept, understand, and forgive ourselves for being fragile, imperfect, and weak.

This in turn allows us to release the worries, concerns, anxieties, and doubts about attaining our goals and understand that if we are patient, we are much more likely to get the cooperation of the cosmic force for good. Remember that the world was not created in a day, nor were beautiful symphonies, works of art, and literary masterpieces. Our life will be a lifetime creation as well.

As you proceed, you will learn to incorporate patience into your world view. It is the natural and organic attitude that conforms to the reality of nature. Hopefully your deeper commitment to patience will bring you greater joy as you approach your life with less urgency and anxiety. Enjoy the ride and don't forget to smell the flowers along the way.

.Douglas Frans, Ph.

D. Has been a mental health practitioner, educator, lecturer and researcher over a 30 year professional career. His primary clinical work has focused on personal empowerment and compulsive disorders including: addiction and eating disorders.

He has worked in private practice settings and also directed mental health, addiction and eating disorder recovery programs. He has practiced primarily from a competency-based perspective. Dr. Frans consults and writes about water quality issues and water filtration as well.

By: Douglas Frans


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