God give me patience! And give it to me now! I am sure we are all familiar with this sentiment. We know the value of patience and yet we don’t have the time to develop it – or even to practice it!! And yet Patience is a skill, and it needs to be put into use. We need to make a decision to be patient. The more we make that decision the easier it becomes. I say to my kids that they have to develop muscles in certain areas – the more they do the little steps towards something, the more their muscles build. It is the same with patience – the more we make little choices to be patient, the stronger our patient muscle becomes.
Why is patience so important?
- Patience values relationships; responding with patience tells the people we are with that they are precious, regardless of what they are doing, or how they are doing, we love them and will support them.
- Patience protects our own well-being; accepting a situation for what it is, and slowly working through it helps keep our stress levels down.
Impatience is a trigger to anger. When I look at the issue of anger I like to remind myself of all the synonyms because I don’t know that I get angry. Angry is yelling, intense, losing physical control (that’s my mental image). I don’t go there very often. But I do get frustrated, annoyed, irritated, provoked, exasperated, upset, cross, peeved – it really doesn’t matter how big the emotion is – it is an expression of anger. And Impatience, a lack of being patient, is akin.
The most helpful thing that I have found with anger / impatience is to understand that getting angry doesn’t fix anything (it is just a reaction). Alternatively, we can recognise that we are angry and we can use that as a trigger to understand what is going on – and we can then make a decision to change whatever we need to change. It is much like pain – when we have a pain, say from stubbing our toe, we know something negative has happened. We can just sit in pain, or we can decide to either lift our feet, or wear shoes or do something so that we don’t stubb our toe again. It isn’t just about changing our response, often there is something not right that is triggering that response in us.
What makes us impatient? We often blame our husband, our child, our work environment. These people throw us into situations that are annoying and we respond with impatience. But no-one can make you do anything. I would say to my kids – your sister can’t make you react that way – it is your choice how you respond to her. I would have to say to myself: my child can’t make me react like that, it is my choice how I respond to them.
Patience is recognising that we are in a difficult situation – so it isn’t about silver-lining thinking. We don’t get patience by just positive thinking and being cheery. Impatience is often a knee-jerk reaction, and this is why we need to build muscles to react, or respond, a different way. As with all character responses we need to develop, we need to practice, until it becomes a habit.
Keys for developing patience:
- Recognise that you have a tendency to be impatient, to react negatively, when things don’t go as you wanted, wished, hoped.
- Recognise the damage that happens when you get impatient – who do you hurt, what goals do you limit?
- Look for the things that you can change; can you do something differently that would make a difference?
- Check that you are doing the right thing – your attitude, your actions, your words – and then keep on at it. Patience is closely linked with perseverance (but we must make sure we are ‘doing’ the right thing – persevering with impatience, isn’t going to be helpful!)
- Find something to be thankful for in this circumstance, and give thanks.
Patience as a Parent
As a parent, I think one of the biggest issues that creates or promotes impatience is our busyness. We need things done now, and we don’t have time for delays, dawdling or silly interruptions. Basically, we don’t have time for our children’s childishness. We want them to get it – now. We want them to be doing it – now. What we are saying is we don’t have time to be the parent. Parenting needs patience; we are dealing with little people who don’t have the skill-set we have. Parenting is going to be one of the most adverse situations we find ourselves in. We will constantly find ourselves needing patience.
When we are dealing with our children, of any age, there are some things we cannot change, and some things that we can.
- We can change how we respond to them – will it be with love, kindness, helpfulness or will it be with impatience
- We can change how much we train them, and help them succeed
- But … We cannot change the fact that they are not adults and that they have to learn – and learning takes time – and lots of practice.
The most helpful thing for us to do when we realise that we are being impatience is to stop and think. I guess this is the true helpfulness of those quips: count to 10, breathe deeply, walk away. Just removing ourselves, or delaying our response isn’t really the answer. Giving ourselves time to think, reassess, and decide is really what is going to help us gain patience. It is in our response that patience is shown, not just in not responding!
So this week, when you find yourself in an annoying situation and you know you need patience – pause and think about how to respond. And in doing so you’ll be developing the muscles of patience.
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