The fifth in our series on the Christian virtues, the antidote to the seven deadly sins.
In a frenetic world where everything is on demand, patience is a rarity. As with all the virtues, I fall desperately short, but this one in particular I struggle with. My generation are used to having everything at our fingertips but when something comes along that takes time – establishing a career or mastering a skill – we bridle. We’re not used to it. Where’s the app for making an income from writing?!
When I am being an impatient nuisance, it comes from a place of ingratitude and entitlement. I’m not happy with where I am in life and feel as if I deserve more. But why do I? What’s so special about me? You have to work but when you are in a fit of petulant impatience you want it all now.
Patience, ultimately, can be derived from a gratitude for the gifts one has been given by God and an acknowledgement that very often life simply won’t be what we want it to be. Grin and bear it, or in Christian terms, take up your cross with serenity.
Patience applies to other areas of life. We can be patient with people too. Patience is intertwined with forgiveness as it takes a patient, accepting mindset, to forgive someone. It requires the ability to come to terms with whatever hardship has befallen you. Not to gnash your teeth at the sky but accept that sometimes life is extremely difficult and that to an extent, there is only so much in life you can control. If someone decides to hurt you, sometimes there is nothing you can do about it.
The most exceptional example of patience and forgiveness I have ever come across is a village in Rwanda called Mybo. In this community, people from both side of the genocide live side by side. There is one woman who has somehow found it within her to forgive the man who killed her family.
Such extreme patience requires compassion, understanding of the human experience – how in the wrong circumstances people can do the most abhorrent things – and optimism for the future, so that this extraordinary woman can conquer her past and not be defined by it.
The Christian virtues are truly beautiful.