Think of all the times you have had to wait – in a line, stuck behind a slow driver, waiting for a doctor or a service person, on the phone. Even if you are able to not lose your cool, do you find yourself sighing, tapping your foot, clicking your nails on a counter, crossing and uncrossing your arms, or leaning forward on the steering wheel as if willing the cars to move? You are trying your very best to be patient, however, you want everyone else to know that this is a long suffering process for you. You might even make comments to those around you or just talk to yourself in a complaining tone. There is no anger, just frustration as you struggle with being the person you know you should be. Soon those vibes you are sending out begin affecting everyone around you. You are going to be patient if it kills you!
I will be the first to admit that in my younger days, I struggled with being a patient person. Family and friends as well as a few co-workers can attest to that. I also was a perfectionist so losing my patience with others and myself was usually a result of frustration which often led to bursts of anger. Impatience permeated my personality and the result was a very negative, often restless attitude toward myself and others. If you are suppose to be here at 11:30 am, you better be here. If my appointment was at noon, I better be in your office at that time. Don’t you dare put me on hold – my time is valuable! Aahhhh, there it is. Am I really that important? My negative, forced patience made me a miserable person. In fact, it almost cost me a job I was good at and desperately needed.
So what is positive patience? Remember the situations I referred to earlier? By trying to prove we are being patient, we are only permeating our bodies with volumes of negativity. We really want to stomp out, slam down the phone, honk the horn, yell at the nurse, or complain about a service person’s tardiness. We really want everyone around us including ourselves to see how we are being inconvenienced. We are practicing what we think is patience, but it’s stilted and resentful. Health-wise, it might be better if we just exploded.
What I have learned in my mature, wiser years is that I can’t control everything. So there are times when I must grin and bear it, literally. All the negativity coming from my body language, off hand remarks, and sighs undermines the patience I am trying to display. A deep breath, a smile and a kind word goes a long way in situations that are out of my control. Even a kind word to myself when no one else is around can calm impatient feelings in some situations. Comments to others who are trying my patience such as “you must be having a bad day” often diffuse an otherwise ugly situation and will elicit apologies and special care when it is finally my turn.
I don’t mean that we have to let others walk all over us. I’ve put items down and left a store when I realize that I can no longer wait with positive patience. I’ve hung up the phone when the message says “thanks, but everyone is busy”, then tried at another time. If the call I am making is extremely important and the phone message gives me a time frame of when it will be my turn, I’ll put the speaker on and continue with my day until someone comes on line. I’ve approached an assistant in a doctor’s office with the simple phrase, “did you forget me?” and smile. They don’t feel threatened and my stress level doesn’t elevate. I have learned also to graciously accept any apologies I receive when finally things move along.
We try to teach our children patience, but do they see us practicing what we preach? How can we expect a young child to sit quietly or willingly wait their turn when playing, if we cannot do the same in our own daily undertakings? Children see all, hear all. Watching a parent handle a situation gracefully and calmly will garner immense respect from that child and give them a solid example to follow.
The definition of patience is varied. “Submission, passiveness, sufferance, yielding, resignation” are words that I feel are the reason we sometimes become so irritable, resentful, even nasty when faced with a situation requiring us to be patient. They make being patient seem so futile and demeaning. However, words such as “fortitude, composure, self-control, serenity, poise, humility” are uplifting and allow me to feel that by being patient, I am actually empowering myself and others around me. I like to think I am capable of being quietly persistant when faced with every day occurrences that test my patience. I am not perfect. There will be times I will “lose it” and anyone who has ever witnessed my frustrated anger knows I am a force to be dealt with. Hopefully, though, even if I step over the edge, I will catch my balance, reign it in, smile a genuine smile and practice positive patience.