Our society does not place much value on Patience. But this age-old Christian virtue is especially meaningful in the current “lockdown” period. What does Patience teach us about the way to treat others—and the way to treat ourselves?
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A few years ago, I made it a priority to focus on developing patience: to make myself a better Christian, father, husband, professional, and friend.
I do not consider myself to be an especially patient person by nature. The “impatient” aspect of my personality has brought me success in some ways. But it has also led me to be too hard on myself—and consequently, too hard on others close to me.
Our society does not really value patience. Rather, it values instant gratification. We want everything now, and will often sacrifice quality for speed. Food doesn’t come fast enough; websites don’t load quickly enough; movies aren’t released early enough. We generally turn to money as the solution: for example choosing to pay for faster Internet, or express delivery.
But in the case of the COVID-19 pandemic, we can’t throw money at it to make it go away faster. We find ourselves in a situation where we have to wait. We have to be patient: there’s no other option. The laws of nature won’t bend, no matter how much money we spend. We are forced to wait for curves to flatten, for bodies to heal, and for vaccines to be developed and tested.
We are impatient to know the answers. But those answers simply don’t exist right now.
Patience and Christian Faith
Christians should be more prepared than most to deal with this uncertainty. We exist by holding faith without a definite answer. That faith revolves around the recognition that we are not in control: that we must be patient and put our trust in God.
The Bible itself is full of counsel on patience. For example, here is St. Paul’s advice to the church of Ephesus: “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love” (Ephesians 4:2).
That advice has spoken powerfully to me in the last months, as my own patience has been tested. During that time I’ve been running my business full-time, with four kids in the house (my wife is a godsend, but she can only do so much to dampen the noise). I’ve been dealing with people who may frustrate me: courts and clients, but also friends and family members.
All of these, however, deserve my patience.
So rather than give in to the instinct to react and get upset, I try to take a minute and remember that everyone is dealing with this incredibly stressful situation in their own way. Virtually everyone I know has either lost their job; is facing uncertainty on how to feed their family; is sick, or has a family member or friend who is sick. Most everyone is just scared, and having a hard time dealing with this monumental change.
After the initial shock of the situation wore off, I made a promise to myself that in any situation, rather than just react, I would breath deeply and exercise patience—no matter how difficult. Sometimes it has taken one deep breath; sometimes ten. Sometimes it’s required putting my phone on mute. But I have never regretted focusing on the need to be patient. Not even once.
An Art and an Attitude
It’s easy to be hard on each other. Perhaps we should practice the art of “giving the benefit of the doubt.” It’s an attitude I’ve tried to keep in mind throughout these trying weeks.
Maybe my kids are not trying to be difficult—they just have no idea how to process not being able to hug their family, see their friends, or celebrate their birthdays.
Maybe the person on the other end of the line is not trying to aggravate me—but he’s fearful about losing his job.
Maybe the person who keeps the call going longer is not trying to be annoying—but he’s lonely and just wants someone to talk to.
In such situations, Patience goes hand-in-hand with Love and Forgiveness as a fundamental building block of Christian faith. In fact, the only way we get through the current situation is by practicing patience: patience towards each other; patience towards the world; patience towards our own selves.
Patience is called for because we all make mistakes. It’s okay to admit them and apologize. Hopefully we will receive forgivingness, and can move on. In light of that reality,readers might ponder these questions about the role of patience in their own lives:
What situations in the last two months have tested your patience—and how did you handle them? What do you anticipate as the biggest test to your patience in the coming months? What will be your strategy to overcome impatience?
Antranig Garibian offered this devotional meditation to open the May 13, 2020 meeting of the Diocesan Council, of which he is a member. Diocesan Primate Bishop Daniel Findikyan initiated the practice of each council member in turn offering a short devotion to begin each meeting.