When my son was 4, his definition of patience was “waiting my turn.” Kids get a lot of practice with this at school, at home, at church, and on the playground. The adults around them encourage and reinforce taking turns.
As adults we probably get more “practice opportunities” than we would like…waiting our turn in traffic or in the grocery store line, being on hold, listening to toddler-babble all day long, waiting for news of a loved one’s life event, or biding our time until it’s our turn for a promotion. Sometimes we even have designated places to practice patience: those chilly waiting rooms outside of surgical suites and doctors’ offices–where time becomes squishy with an unusual mixture of uncertainty and hope. All these practices without a designated coach…it can get a little tricky with all of us out there trying to make the big play yet committing countless fouls in the process. This road to Patience is bumpy.
I asked Siri for a definition of Patience. In her all-knowing tone, she told me that having patience is to “remain calm and not become annoyed when waiting for a long time or when dealing with problems or difficult people.” Geez! It’s probably good that we don’t have visible cartoon thought bubbles broadcasting how we reealllly feel in these daily situations of stress. Misplaced keys, a cracked phone screen, getting cut off in traffic…we face frustrations each and every
day hour. How we respond to these hassles reflects upon how deep our level of patience is and how quickly we can tap into it. And all of us know that our darling children are watching, always watching.
Somehow the “big” trials seem to ramp up my patience and I churn out the calm vibes at warp speed. On the other hand, those little daily hassles can trip me up. Running late can zap my patience with my kids super fast. Those last five minutes exiting the house can be quite dicey as I’m calling out reminders in my not-so-calm voice: “grab-your-jacket! Got-your-water-bottle-for-practice?Remember-we-have-your-music-lesson-right-after-school-so-bring-your-instrument-now-so-it-will-be-in-the-car-later.Did-you-turn-off-the-lights?Your-shoes-are-in-the-family-room-where-you-left-them.Come-on-we’re-runninglate.Put-the-sword-down.Don’t-forget-your-backup-soccer-jersey.Get-out-of-the-fridge-we-don’t-have-time-for-a-snack.Oh-and-bring-out-the-trash-as-you-come-please“…[just insert all those “Mommy messages” here because it’s exhausting reliving those moments; oh, and remember to add “please” at the end of the monologue–gotta keep it “nice”–ha!] Needless to say, countless apologies have been made in the car as we’re scurrying to a soccer game, violin lesson, or (gasp!) even to church.
To get better at patience, we probably have to know our “buttons” – our stress points. If we aren’t sure, our spouse and/or children will be able to provide us with some quick insights. (ouch!) Patience can be quite a strength if we practice and build up our ability to use it consistently and effectively. Maybe one way to “bulk up” our patience is to spend a little time trying to deepen our sense of calm.
I have a friend that loves to color. It’s soothing and helps ground her. After a coloring session, she has more mental clarity and is more prepared to tackle her next challenge. Coloring books for adults are now marketed everywhere, so go for it! It’s not just for kindergarteners anymore; it’s “socially acceptable” for grownups!
I tend to find myself cleaning out closets or my car just to have a sense of control over something tangible when life circumstances are off-kilter.
For others, taking a walk to burn off nervous energy might help restore calmness.
The beauty of being unique individuals is that we can each have a different arsenal of responses to any given situation. Whatever flavor of calmness technique you adopt, it probably works best if it “fits” and feels natural to you.
“A man’s wisdom gives him patience.” Proverb 19:11
Patience may be one of the Fruits of the Spirit that we need more time to develop. It’s about being patient, not doing patient. It’s not a one-time “I’ve got it!” experience either. It’s an on-going process that we continually have to reboot. Patience is tough. It keeps us on our toes. As with many things that are difficult, though, it is so worth it. Just wait, and you’ll see.