Patience isn’t something many of us want to take seriously. We joke about how impatient we are. We fume when stuck behind a driver going even a few miles per hour below the speed limit. We abandon time-consuming projects for something faster and more interesting. We gobble up as much instant gratification as we possibly can.
Impatience is easy. Patience takes work. And, as with many things, the option that requires some hard work is by far the most rewarding. Cultivating patience can improve our health and our relationships. It’s also an important tool for personal and spiritual growth, which is the context today’s post is going to focus on.
- This article is a follow-up to Monday’s post titled “‘Are We There Yet?’ — Dealing With Impatience In Spiritual and Personal Growth.” If you haven’t read that yet you’ll probably want to before continuing with this article. Just click the title to open it in a new window.
If you research the word “patience,” you’ll find that it comes from the Latin word patientia, which literally refers to the “quality of suffering.” In modern usage, we define it as “the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset.” Related words include forbearance, tolerance, self-restraint, resignation, stoicism, fortitude, and endurance.
I’m no linguist, but one of the languages I have studied a little is Biblical Greek and in doing so I discovered something about patience that I find fascinating. In the Greek New Testament, there are two words for patience. “Hupomone (5281) is exercised toward things and circumstances, while makrothumia is exercised toward people” (Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete WordStudy Dictionary, entry 3116). Both are key to experiencing growth and cultivating a more patient lifestyle.
Hupomone is about bearing up under and enduring things and circumstances that try your patience. It’s the quality that lets you hold on to hope when things around you are falling apart. The other word, makrothumia, is about waiting a long time to lose control of your heated emotions. I’ve written a post about it which you can click here to read.
Impatience Sabotages Growth
We live in a hurried culture (at least here in the United States, and I’m sure many other places as well). We feel as if we never have enough time and we resent things that slow us down. When we do budget resources for something, we get impatient if we find out it’s going to cost more time, money, or emotional investment. We want things to work now and to work the way they’re supposed to in our minds.
But growth isn’t something you can hurry. Growth takes time. If you’ve ever tried to make a seed sprout or a young plant mature faster you know it doesn’t work very well. In fact, you can kill a plant by giving it too much food, light, or water in an effort to speed up its growth. A similar thing can happen with us. Pushing our growth too fast because we want to save time and move on to something else can choke it off. Impatience sabotages growth.
How Patience Helps
Patience, on the other hand, lets us hold on to hope. It lets us believe that things will get better if we continue to persevere. It gives us the strength to sit back, take a deep breath, and give ourselves permission to do the work of growth. That’s the hupomone type of patience.
Patience also lets us find peace in ourselves by refusing to let our emotions control us. We feel emotions instead of suppressing them, but they’re not what’s calling the shots. Patience tells us to wait rather than jump to conclusions. It tells us there’s no point in getting all worked up about something or someone we can’t control. It also holds space for others who haven’t yet reached their personal growth goals. That’s the makrothumia type of patience.
We need both types of patience if we want to experience growth. Retraining the way our minds think, processing and healing old wounds, overcoming a personal challenge, learning new skills — these all take time. It’s also hard to predict exactly how much time and effort reaching such a goal is going to require. We need patience with ourselves, our situations, and with others if we’re going to find the space for personal and spiritual growth.
Tips For Finding Patience
Patience isn’t something that comes naturally to us. It’s something we need to practice because impatience is a natural human reaction to specific triggers. Choosing patience requires conscious effort, though it does become easier with practice.
Here, I’ve gathered 5 tips for cultivating patience as it relates to spiritual and personal growth. I’ll also include some links at the end for further reading on cultivating patience in every area of your life.
- Keep track of what patience does — as you learn to cultivate patience, keep track of times when you choose patience and the positive impact that had. Being able to look at a record of how much patience helps can motivate you to continue working on it.
- Make a detailed list of your goals — having a detailed list of your goals (including steps toward those goals) helps you keep track of the progress you’re making. It’s easier to tell impatience it has no place when you can see that you’re moving forward and making real progress.
- Change your attitude toward discomfort — we like being comfortable and tend to think of anything uncomfortable as if it were downright painful. A reluctance to endure discomfort is one reason we want to quit when personal growth gets hard. Re-framing discomfort as something to work through instead of run away from is a big help in cultivating patience.
- Watch your self-talk — the things you say to yourself matter. If you’re beating yourself up over not achieving goals faster or because you’re still dealing with a problem you wanted to solve you’ll be feeding into feeling of guilt and impatience. Replace negative self-talk with reminders about the progress you’ve already made and why you’re committed to growth. It’s hard to change our thoughts, but we do get to choose what we think and how we talk to ourselves.
- Practice mindful acceptance — when you’re feeling rushed, force yourself to slow down and just be in the present moment. Notice what you’re thinking, ask yourself why you’re impatient, and take stock of what’s really happening. Take some deep breaths and relax. Accept your experience for what it is, and then decide whether or not you need to take action to try and change things.
- “Cultivating Patience for Personal Growth” by Sean Thomas
- “Four Steps To Developing Patience” by Jane Bolton
- “7 Tips for Better Patience: Yes, You’ll Need to Practice!” by the Cleveland Clinic
Featured image credit: congerdesign via Pixabay