How do you cultivate patience in your life and relationships? You need to understand it. There’s more to it than we often think there is.
We’ve all heard the saying that patience is a virtue. Not many of us have actually heard the rest of that saying. “Patience is a virtue that everybody admires but few people attain.”
Within Christianity there’s also an idea that God teaches us patience, he doesn’t just give it to us. Isn’t that frustrating?
In the Bible there are a couple of different themes of patience. Any time that patience is used to describe to God, it’s describing God as putting up with sinful people who keep doing the same stupid things over and over and over again. Kind of like a parent that puts up with an unruly child doing the same stupid things over and over and over again.
Anytime patience is used to describe people it’s more about them reflecting God’s patience and being slow to anger with other people. You could say that the purpose of God’s patience is to bring us to repentance, to bring us closer to him, and then the purpose of patience between people is to bring us closer to each other, it’s to improve our relationships.
Patience improves relationships, whether with God or with people.
There are at least three components to patience:
- A restrained temper, being slow to anger, being tolerant and kind of keeping it in.
- A sense of being enduring, persevering, and persistent, even through the challenges of life.
- And then there’s just the plain old waiting…. For something…. To happen….In the Bible, there are several themes about waiting.
- Waiting for God to bring about justice and correct injustice.
- Waiting for relief from hard times.
- Waiting for God to deliver on his promises.
- Waiting for the return of Christ.
If you take those three components together, the restrained temper, the persistence and endurance, and the waiting, you get this idea that a patient person is poised, they’re composed, they’re steady, in seemingly any circumstance that life can throw at them.
Patience is one part Restraining Anger
How do you improve your temper? First off, when you’re angry, stop, pause, take some slow, deep breaths, get out of fight, flight, or freeze mode, get your heart rate under a hundred beats per minute.
There’s a popular meme on social media that applies to just about anything. It says, “THINK before you speak.” THINK being an acronym that helps us remember several questions:
- Is what I am going to say true?
- Is what I am going to say helpful?
- Is what I am going to say inspiring?
- Does what I am going to say need to be said? (I forgot that one in the video)
- Is what I am going to say kind?
So when you’re angry, hold your tongue and do the best you can to make what you say true, helpful, inspiring, needed, and kind.
Take a break, as long as you commit to come back. 20 minutes, 30 minutes, or schedule a specific time to come back and address whatever situation that’s making you angry.
Use I statements, say things like, “I think…” “I feel…” “I want…” “I need…” Focus on yourself in a positive way. Don’t try to mind read for the other person in this situation, don’t assign their motives.
Get some exercise, get your heart pumping for some reason other than being angry. Go for a run, do some jumping jacks, sit ups, squats, things that you can do right there wherever you’re at, maybe some yoga, whatever it is that you do to get exercise, that’s also helpful for managing your anger.
You can use humor to an extent. You don’t want to use humor as an escape from the situation and you don’t want to use sarcasm to cut down the other person, but you can use humor to the extent that it lightens the mood. It creates a relief, it removes some of the tension in the situation.
Always, always, always with anger: find the underlying emotion.
Anger is a secondary emotion, it is not a primary emotion. Underneath anger there is always some sense of guilt or shame, or perhaps some sadness or some grief, a sense of fear or worry or anxiety, or a sense of powerlessness, or feeling out of control, or you’re seeing some kind of injustice, whether it’s against you or someone or something that you care about.
Whatever is making you angry, be sure that you’re looking for the underlying emotion. Personally, I find journaling really, really helpful for that.
Patience is one part Enduring
How do you endure hard times? The four F’s: faith, family, friends, and fun.
Find the sources of joy in your life, and they are probably those four things, faith, family, friends, and fun, maybe work, as well.
Invest in activities related to your faith, go to church, go to Bible study, go to small group, do things that are involved with your faith. Spend time with your family as much as you can, family is a great natural resource for getting us through hard times in life. Spend time with your friends. Do something fun.
These are all healthy distractions that will help you to find the positive in whatever is going on, they will help you to choose joy, and they will help you to be patient in the sense that you are enduring through hard times.
Patience is one part Waiting
I found this quote from Howard Whitman, here is what he wrote about patience and waiting:
“Life is composed of waiting periods, the child must wait until he is old enough to have a bicycle, the young man must wait until he is old enough to drive a car, the medical student must wait for his diploma, the husband for his promotion, the young couple for savings to buy a new home, the art of waiting is not learned at once” … you have to wait for it.
Some kind of frustrating irony there, huh?