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Is Patience Really A Virtue?

Is patience really a virtue?

The saying “Patience is a virtue” is often quoted with a deep sigh by people living with someone whose impatience is making life really miserable for them. The question is: “Is patience always a virtue?  Is it always a good thing to be patient in every situation?”  Sometimes people hide behind the facade of being “patient” while they are in fact too timid to confront a problem, be it a teenager with behavioural problems, a spouse with destructive habits or themselves being undisciplined in certain areas of their lives. It is all too convenient to say:” I’m just being patient with him / her / myself – it will change with time”. The reality is, it probably won’t and it might actually become worse unless you address it.

However, there are times and situations which require patience and where patience displays maturity and strength of character. Maybe you think that patience is simply remaining silent in the midst of an irritating situation, or remaining calm when someone tries to aggravate you. Although silence and calmness could display patience, the essence of patience is much broader.

 The Cambridge English Dictionary defines patience as the ability to wait, or to continue doing something despite difficulties, or to suffer without complaining or becoming annoyed. What the dictionary fails to explain, is how patience is obtained.

I would like to suggest the following about patience:

  • Patience is active, not passive.
  • Patience requires faith in the ultimate goodness of God.
  • Patience is not to be a victim or allowing others to walk over you.
  • Patience is not pretending to be nice while holding on to anger.
  • Patience is understanding that the other party is acting out of either ignorance, sinfulness or hurt.
  • Patience is displaying the grace which God has with you, to others.
  • Patience is making room for others to grow and mature.
  • Patience is love in action without judging.
  • Patience requires that we take our eyes off the immediate problem and focus our attention on God’s promises and plans.
  • Patience is enjoying the peace of God in the midst of a trying situation.
  • Patience is remaining hopeful and faithful when things take time.
  • Patience is the opposite of instant gratification.

It is interesting and kind of obvious that patience is almost always referred to in the context of relating to other people. Ecclesiastes 7:9 instructs us to “not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools.” Ephesians 4:2 says: “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” Prov 15:18 says:  “A hot-tempered person stirs up conflict, but the one who is patient calms a quarrel.”

Living up to these verses might be desirable, but the reality of having patience at the right time is not always easy. That is when we have the privilege, as Children of God, to totally rely on His Spirit to change us and to work in and through us.

Gal 5:22-26: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.  And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.”

It is interesting that Paul warned the Galatians, while discussing the fruit of the Spirit, not to become proud. Is it possible that your impatience is simply a symptom of pride, thinking you deserve better than everyone else?

Being patient is an active choice to allow the Holy Spirit to release joy and peace in your heart in the midst of a trial, especially when it is over a period of time. It starts with a decision on your side, and ends with a supernatural act of Father God, giving you His peace, which surpasses all understanding.

Philippians 4:7 (English Standard Version) “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Next time when you require patience, you don’t have to battle it alone, you can rely on the Holy Spirit and yield to His power to transform you!

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