We all know patience is a virtue, but how many of us know what patience really is? I think there is a major misconception that patience is a passive word. In fact, whenever I hear the word “patience” I envision someone sitting perfectly still with a forced smile on her face. However, the older I get the more I realize there is nothing passive about patience. True patience is not merely sitting around waiting for something to happen–in reality patience is an action word.
Two mothers I know portray just what I mean. Just days before her son was to leave on a full-time mission for their church, he was involved in a tragic accident that left him paralyzed from the chest down. As you can imagine, this situation demanded a great deal of patience of both mother and son. How constructive would it have been for this woman to merely wring her hands and sit, waiting for the day that things might improve? Not at all. Instead, she went work, but not alone. She, her son, the family, and a team of doctors have worked day after day after day, with repetition and consistency, to get his arms to respond. Truly she has waited with patience for the day when even one more small movement will be detected.
The other sweet mother unexpectedly lost her son just over a year ago. She has demonstrated the essence of patience in waiting for the day that the pain will begin to subside, just enough to function without a constant sorrow in her heart. Knowing she must be present for her other children physically and mentally, she has not “checked out” or become idle. Instead she pulls herself up by her bootstraps every morning knowing she has to make each day count for her other children. She cooks dinner, drives carpool, and all the things that a busy mother does–all while being actively patient; Patient for the day that she may see her sweet son again, patient for the promise of understanding.
In our family, we have had a catalyst for learning patience. Several of our children have been diagnosed with anxiety disorders. The anxiety presents somewhat differently in each child, but there are several common threads that weave through every one. The anxiety causes the person to internalize things in such a reckless manner that even the slightest criticism cuts fast and deep becoming difficult to dislodge.
One of my daughters was told by a friend that she was getting chubby. She carried the comment with her for some time. After going through some depression and emotional eating, she started to gain more weight. I’m sure that many a mother understands the turmoil of watching your child self-destruct by emotional eating. For several years I walked on eggshells, wanting to approach the subject cautiously yet constructively. I tried focusing on the benefits of exercise, the importance of balance, and portion control. I knew that no matter what I said or did not say, things would not change for her until SHE decided to do something.
I was exercising patience for sure, but my patience was not passive. I was learning important lessons about agency, compassion and timing. For several months, I have watched this beautiful girl transform. She is thinner now, but more importantly she has self-esteem, increased confidence, and the satisfaction of seeing results that only she could make happen.
Patience has always seemed like a daunting attribute to acquire. It seems to imply suffering. But if you are willing to think of it as a process rather than a sentence, it seems less overwhelming and much more attainable. It is so intertwined with motherhood that the two words could be synonymous. Many a mother faced with a challenge thinks to herself “ How will I ever face this?”, but when put to the test the trial is overcome one minute, then one hour, then one day at a time. When we are called upon to exercise patience it is no different. We actively take step after step until the results are in. Patience may be a virtue, but I think we should consider that the journey of patience makes us virtuous. So the next time someone tells you to be patient don’t take it as an invitation to unplug–instead, consider it your call to action.
QUESTION: Is there any area in your life that could benefit from some active patience?
CHALLENGE: List three things you can do or tell yourself that will demonstrate active patience in dealing with that situation.