Cultivating Patience For Spiritual and Personal Growth

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.

Defining Patience

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. Read more

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“Are We There Yet?” — Dealing With Impatience In Spiritual and Personal Growth

Our journeys often seem very long. Whether you’re a little one in the back seat of the car thinking we should have made it to the pool by now, or a young person waiting for the end of high school, or an adult hoping for a breakthrough in your career, we can all get impatient. “Are we there yet?” we ask, because it feels like by now we should be.

We ask this question for all sorts of things. Journeys by foot, by car, by plane. Journeys of faith and personal growth. Relationship journeys, career journeys, learning journeys. We get impatient and we want to see how things will turn out.

Are we there yet?

Why aren’t we there yet?

When will we get there?

But are these really the right questions, especially for journeys of spiritual and personal growth? Maybe instead of impatiently pushing through the in-between times or abandoning one goal for another, we should focus on seeing what we can learn from the journey.

Impatience and The Cost of Growth

In his excellent article “The 7 Laws of Impatience,” Jim Stone, PhD, states that “Impatience is triggered when we have a goal, and realize it’s going to cost us more than we thought to reach it.” Here are some examples:

  • You’re trying to get a new type of job, and you realize you need additional schooling to qualify for the position(s) you want. You realize that achieving this goal will cost more than you expected in terms of time and money.
  • You’re working on a creative project, but get distracted by some other project. Achieving your first goal is going to cost putting the other goal on the back-burner.
  • You start a personal growth journey toward a goal such as reducing anxiety, improving your social skills, or to stop procrastinating. As you work on this goal, you realize this issue goes deeper than you expected, is going to take longer to work through, and/or might require counseling. Now achieving that goal will cost more in terms of time, vulnerability, and emotional resources.

When something like this happens, we get impatient. To quote Dr. Stone again, “Impatience motivates us to reduce the costs of reaching our goal, or to switch goals.” In some situations that can be a good thing, such as when we’re working on a project that’s going nowhere and it would be more efficient to switch goals. But in other cases it’s not helpful. Read more