by Dr. Dale V. Atkins, October 2011
PATIENCE. What is it? Patience implies calm, stability, and persistent courage in exasperating or frustrating circumstances. It infers an ability or willingness to suppress restlessness or annoyance when confronted with delay or our perception of someone else's manner, personality, abilities or lack thereof, or a situation that challenges us. Patience represents quiet, steady perseverance, even-tempered care, and diligence.
Patience is also the level of endurance one's character can take before negativity sets in.
Who talks about it? Patience is a prominent theme in Western and Eastern religions. Valued as an important personal trait and virtue, we are encouraged to have patience in order to find the strength needed to be closer to God, to endure difficult situations, and to maintain good relations.
Numerous Old and New Testament references chide the ill-tempered response and extol the patient. "Better is the patient spirit than the lofty spirit. Do not in spirit become quickly discontented, for discontent lodges in the bosom of a fool." (Ecclesiastes 7:8-9). Thessalonians states that we should "be patient with all. See that no one returns evil for evil; rather, always seek what is good for each other and for all" (1 Thessalonians 5:14-15.) Buddhism teaches us that patience refers to not returning harm, rather than merely enduring a difficult situation. It is the ability to control one's emotions even when being criticized or attacked. In both Hinduism and Buddhism there is a particular emphasis on meditation, aspects of which lead to a natural state of mindfulness that is advantageous to patient, effective, and well-ordered thought. Is it any wonder that discussions, classes, trainings in learning about meditation has become more popular within a culture that is known for its impatience?
Simply stated, reacting with a short temper prevents you from appreciating a different pace or perspective. When you don't have patience with yourself you are likely not to have it with another. Over time, impatience (whether with yourself or others) erodes trust and serenity within you as well as within relationships. For some of us, a calm demeanor seems unattainable. For others, our composure and tranquility underscores the way we live and approach all of life.
The good news is that if a person desires, anyone can develop patience. The self-control, peace, and equanimity that result are life changing as they allow space to develop compassion; not only for oneself but for others - those you know and those you don't. It is an energy that affects your thoughts, which affects your feelings, which affects your attitudes and behavior.
When you demonstrate patience you can feel lighter. Instead of being reactive, you get a sense of what is going on within yourself and in the situation. You wait, you observe, and then you can decide what, if anything, you want to do. You do not act in a knee jerk fashion but rather from a place of thought and feeling. Remember: patience implies power and not indifference.
When we take time to reflect, we respond with the benefit of getting perspective. We must stop, take a step back, and breathe deeply. Only then can we comfortably consider the consequences of different types of responses. We can choose the one that will benefit the people and situation now and in the future.
When we do this, we give ourselves and others a gift. Be conscious of what you think, feel, say, and do. Watch and listen to yourself and attend to whether patience is something you want in your life so that you and those in your life will be more peaceful and open.
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