Patience is defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as “the ability to bear pains or trials calmly or without complaint.”
I am writing this article because of the negative dispositional traits of what makes me who I am, that I’d like to tackle and ameliorate: being impetuous and being impatient. I am a deeply impatient person, sometimes, walking through life with a chip on my shoulder, working in quick spurts, expecting results and expecting them now, rather than later. Life, unfortunately, does not cower to my sense of urgency all the time, and the answer for me, now, is to seek and find patience for elements of life outside my control.
I like to think I walk through my life with the best of intentions, with a keen sense of justice, with an eye for empathy, with a constant and unwavering pursuit to become a better person and servant. I am not aware of this mission is a simple case in self-deception, but I realize, in writing this article, that I cannot look outwards for answers in how to be more patient. I need to look within and use the tools I already have, the experiences I’ve already gone through, to realize what patience is, and how I can acquire more and more of it.
I do not walk through my life self-righteous, and that’s the least I can say. “Lord forgive me, a sinner,” I pray every single day. It’s tough for me to be patient when I am in this much pain and this much confusion. But there has to be a way, some way, to acquire and find it.
One way that I truly believe in is the ability to listen, to empathize with other people who feel the same level of pain. It is the role of helpers like counselors, ministers, and social workers to not afflict the comfortable, but to comfort the afflicted, to provide every person a listening ear when they’re in need. I like to believe that I have a gift for comforting the afflicted, a gift for listening to people who feel as if their voice does not deserve to be heard elsewhere, because who am I to pass judgment?
The natural question that arises, therefore, is why I cannot do that for myself, why I find it so difficult to practice what I preach about the gift of vulnerability, to share the same amount of suffering others do with me as I do to others. I go back and forth all the time about what I’m allowed to share and how much I’m willing to spread my pain.
I secretly wish for quick fixes, tricks, and mantras that can be panaceas to every problem I am facing, every challenge I have to face in my daily life, from the assignment I have due in an hour, to the conversation with a friend I have to confess how much better I am for their friendship. I am very well-aware that life does not work that way, that there are no easy solutions and quick fixes to many of these problems, but that does not stop me from being tempted towards them.
And maybe that temptation to look for quick fixes and easy solutions is a symptom of a problem rather than the actual problem. I do not know why I do, and if I did, maybe I would be able to stop and do something about it. But I cannot, and the goal for this article, perhaps, is to be at peace with my circumstances and my tendencies, to be comfortable where I am. They say to live in the present, but they never tell you how, or at least I have never personally discovered how.
So how do I live in the present, and stop being impatient about things happening in the future, the things that will happen tomorrow, that are of pressing nature? The things that have worked for me are strategies of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings — reminding myself to take life one day at a time, reminding myself that I am not alone in my pain, suffering, and impatience, to remind myself that my struggles are part of some greater plan, purpose, and community than myself. Today is a new day. Tomorrow is another one, far in the future.
I will be honest in that if I were to live life as an individual, only for myself, I would have no reason to go on living. I have written before about how I have seen it as my life mission, of late, to get others to believe in themselves. I live my life for my family, for my friends, for my God. I live not to afflict the comfortable, but to comfort the afflicted, as a supporter of the downtrodden, as someone who has made it his life epitaph to break the power of shame. And I want action and want it quickly: that is just the state of being a 21-year-old college student. Maybe I will be patient one day — but I am not now, and that’s fine.
In writing, I know I don’t have all the answers, and perhaps I never will. Perhaps impatience is just the state of affairs, and acceptance of that human impulse is just natural. But in closing, I would like to reference the wise words of my pastor, Reverend Lisa Garvin: “these are birth pains, and you will come out of this born anew. Remember you are a Beloved child of God, and God is walking with you.”
Previously published on Medium.com.
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Photo credit: Ryan Fan