Patience is not just a virtue - It is a skill

“Patience is not the ability to wait, but the ability to keep a good attitude while waiting” – Anonymous.

6 mins read

Q uite a lot has been written about patience that one may simply dismiss any further thoughts on the subject as an absolute waste of time.

Scores of proverbs, literature, books and thoughts all speak to inspiring and encouraging people to be patient. To literally wait.

Most times when torrents of well-intended advice end with a charge to be patient, dear friends, we simply just pass it on derisively as wishful thinking. Almost a mockery.

How do we rationalize the wait for any inexplicable reason? How do we come to terms with a long wait even after all the requisite things have been done?

How easy is it to advise patience when you have no clue what the other person is going through.

For many years we have heard that patience is a virtue. 

The proverb patience is a virtue means that it is a good quality to be able to tolerate something that takes a long time

How about we explore the origin of the phrase.

Research suggests that the idea behind this expression goes as far back as the fifth century, to the epic poem Psychomachia. This poem serves to highlight Christian ideals and describes vices and virtues as people fighting one another.

In the poem, Patience is one of the virtues, which is fighting Anger

It is on record that the first time the expression appeared in English was in a poem called Piers Plowman, written by William Langland, around the year 1360.

Virtue, on one hand, is a trait or quality that is deemed to be morally good and is therefore valued as a foundation of principle and good moral being.

The above definition would suggest that not everyone would have the trait to be patient. After all it is simply considered a trait.  

This may sound completely out of sorts if you consider that in life’s up and down, there is a need at some time to have to wait for something. And that not everyone is wired to wait.

Over the years my dissent for the expression has been strengthened by many life experiences. And I am now convinced more than ever that patience is not just a virtue, but a skill to be learnt- and deliberately too.

Waiting is one common denominator for everyone in life. We have to wait out a nine-month pregnancy or the long wait to conceive. We have to wait for the offer of promotion or employment. We must wait for things as mundane and routine as a public bus at a park in long tiring queues. We have to wait our turn in pizza and ice cream parlours.

Therefore waiting is not some super event that must be ushered in with long prayers, but certainly in everything around us. 

The problem now is that waiting can be painful sometimes. It can be exhausting. Tiring even. Especially if it becomes longer than we anticipate. Waiting can be annoying. Why wait?

It has become a big problem in these times of quick sales, instant messaging, instant response, online tracking, instant alerts, 3 minutes indomie etc.

We can no longer wait for anything. Our attention span has grown too short. We would skip multiple lines and paragraphs in 1-paged prose. We can barely even wait for uber to show up when we make an order. We all want instant gratification and want things without waiting. We expect packages delivered the same day. We expect immediate results in the gym. We have food delivered to us already pre-cut so that we can get a meal cooked 10 minutes faster.  We can even have a book read to us or summarized for us so that we don’t have to read them. I think that has lead us to a life where we have very little patience. We have grown completely impatient with ourselves. We would make a wrong move instead of waiting and then start a conflict. We will throw tantrums at the slightest delay as long as we perceive that it is to our disadvantage.

This constant drive for quick validation has driven us completely into irrational beings against the law of nature. We have now evolved into beings who are unable to wait for the natural turn of events. We would rather shunt the process. Skip to the interesting parts. Disrupt the natural order and pay for it later.

Interestingly, this mutant nature is being exploited by marketers. Social media apps that allow for instant gratification are the order of the day, competition on speed of service delivery continues to rage supreme, quick solutions to simple problems have fueled our impatience, driving on the road to work or home is akin to competing in a grand Prix. We have practically lost our trait to wait. We have evolved into these strange beings where patience is no longer a virtue. We have unlearnt patience. Sadly.

This is one important reason why patience must be re-learnt. It must now become a skill.

Ironically, in spite of all the rush to get instant gratification (technologically enhanced) in our daily routine, we will still have to wait. We will have to wait out a traffic logjam. We will have to wait for the network when messages refuses to be delivered. We will have to wait for our turn at the ATM to get cash. We will have to wait for food at a la carte restaurant. We will have to wait for the water heater before we hit the bathroom. We will have to wait till the end of a transaction/month to get paid. We will have to wait till we grow old.

There would always be more reasons to wait in spite of our changing nature. 

The dopamine-driven technological advancement would completely make humans irritable and annoyingly impatient but we will have to learn to wait. 

Learning to wait to get what you want in life can be hard. You don’t always know whether your wish is around the corner or a long way to come. Life can be unpredictable, and it’s tough to live with unpredictability when you’re told that things happen if you make them happen.

How do we learn to wait?

1. Make Yourself Wait

The best way to practice patience is to make yourself wait. It has to be deliberate. You must choose to wait especially in situations where there is nothing else you can do but to wait. You may choose to carefully distract yourself from the situation you are waiting for by channelling your energy into something else and something more productive. Sometimes the tension generated by anxiety can make the wait seem too long.

2. Pray

Handing our worries to God is one of the most calming exercises anyone can embark on. There are scores of scriptures in the bible that speaks critically on patience and how to hold on. Dozens of stories also buttresses the need to wait. The burden of worry is lifted many times over when you pray to God about it. Give this a shot and thank me later.

3. Relax and Take Deep Breaths

It is important to practice and take deep breaths to relax the body and manage the anxiety that comes with waiting. Taking slow deep breaths has a remarkable way of calming frayed nerves. Deep long breaths will allow every facet of your body relax if this doesn’t help you may consider taking long walks. Walking through a busy park would distract the mind.