It's a very, very important virtue.
From "Karen" videos and public freakouts to road rage caught on camera, it seems like our fellow humans are struggling lately with patience (...among PLENTY of other things).
It's no secret that the stress of the ongoing pandemic alongside extreme political and societal division has really driven a wedge in our ability to tolerate others. BUT, how do we get back to a more compassionate place and why is it so important?
You're in the drive through line of your favorite coffee shop and just placed your order. You're running a little behind on your way to an important meeting, but decided coffee was a necessity. You noticed the person in front of you is not paying attention to the line and hasn't moved up causing a dead stop to the flow of traffic.
Annoying, right? That's fair. You have places to be! BUT, how you react to a given situation sets the tone for YOUR day. You could huff and puff in your car, honk your horn, and stew about people being inattentive on your way to your meeting... OR, you could take a deep breath, try and signal them, and consider they may be dealing with something important to them. Then, after you get your coffee, you're mentally free to turn your attention to the big things you have coming up.
YOU are in control of YOU. Choose to be patient.
Does patience have REAL benefits?
Oh heck, yeah! Psychologist Dr. Thomas Barbian sees four distinct benefits:
1. Patience will make you a physically healthier person.
"Stress and anger are frequently the result of being impatient, and they are linked to numerous physical “stress-based illnesses.” Some examples include hypertension, high cholesterol, ulcers, heart disease and strokes. Research has shown that people who rate higher on patience have lower overall stress levels and less physical illness connected to stress."
2. Patience helps you to develop a healthy attitude.
"A lack of patience often results in being unhappy, irritable, focusing on the negative and eventually believing that nothing ever seems to go your way. Patience improves your ability to accept setbacks and enjoy life much more. There is a saying; “Good things come to those who wait.” Patience allows you to persevere and make more productive decisions, often leading to greater success."
3. Patient people have a greater sense of gratitude.
"The skill of patience will help you be less focused on what “isn’t happening” and more focused on being present with life as it is occurring. Similarly, patience helps you focus on what is good and to be thankful. In fact, patience and gratitude reinforce each other. The more grateful you are for what is good helps you to become more patient, and patience allows you to slow down and notice what is going well."
4. Patience transforms relationships.
"It can help you avoid becoming irritated, defensive and saying hurtful things. It can slow you down and prevent hasty, selfish decisions. Patience helps in developing the crucial relationship skill of empathy — the ability to understand life from the perspective of another. When you are impatient, you are focused inward, on you, on what you are not receiving. On the other hand, when you are patient, you are focused outward, able to think and choose care and compassion for the other person."
You're calling your doctor's office to schedule an appointment and are waiting on hold for a longer than usual time. Unfortunately, you can't schedule this appointment online, but it's important that you get in, so you don't have a choice but to hold. The receptionist picks up the phone and asks if they can place you on a brief hold.
Are you kidding me?! Hold on (no pun intended). Let's think about what we are going to get out of unloading on the receptionist. Nothing but hurt on both sides carried throughout the day. That's not worth a brief outburst born of annoyance. Everyone is dealing with staffing issues. There's lots of illnesses going around. SO many reasons why you're on hold longer or why you can't get an appointment as soon as you used to. Bottom line here, dealing with the public in ANY form is HARD. Take that deep breath (in through the nose and out through the mouth), empathize, and be the reason someone smiles.
HOW can society embrace patience?
As with everything, the most effective way to inject more patience into society is to model it. People WANT to be happy. People WANT to be calm. Unfortunately, many simply have lost their way and no longer know how to choose patience. None of us are perfect and it takes a lot of work to turn around our thought patterns, but we can certainly start with making changes to our actions.
Dr. Barbian suggests that we...
Slow down: Work on stress management and coping mechanisms and take REAL and REGULAR time to live in the present.
Think: Introspection is key. Analyze your thoughts and then empathize! Why am I thinking this right now? How would I feel if I was in their shoes? Don't fall into the trap of black and white thinking. Reality is often a shade of gray.
Choose: Yes, choose to be more patient. Verbally tell yourself "I am going to be calm" and then act on it. BE calm. Did you know that this changes your brain chemistry? It actually causes your central nervous system to relax and to decrease the release of adrenaline.
Surrender: Impatience is often born of us trying to control an uncontrollable situation. Focus on what you CAN control: your thoughts and your actions.
I'll end with my favorite patience quote for everyone:
“Patience is not the ability to wait, but the ability to keep a good attitude while waiting.” -Unknown
And for my friends of faith, consider this:
Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. -James 1:19–20