Patience is a Fading Virtue
The well-known verse appears near the beginning of the biblical chapter read so often at weddings: “Love is patient, love is kind” (1 Corinthians 13:4 NIV).
The order of Paul’s description is telling, I would say; he knew well that without patience, kindness isn’t likely to follow. And in our hyperspeed-paced world, patience is in pretty short supply.
I don’t make this observation with a lecturing, pointing finger, but a mirror that I need to hold up to myself more often.
If my browser takes too long to load up, I get impatient. The same is true when Word is slow to get out of the gate. After all, I am paying an annual license fee for the thing now, so why is it slower than when I owned the software outright?
If someone hesitates at a green light, why am I so quick on the horn?
Such reflections were prompted by a recent lesson in our morning devotions, as my wife and I were going through material on the book of James.
It talked about how when letters were the only option for communicating over long distances, people waited for days before expecting a reply.
Cue smart phones, texting, email and social media. Waiting for days? More than an hour or two and someone may wonder why you’re dragging your feet getting back to them.
The lesson also posed the question of what a realistic expectation is for receiving a reply to an email, text, or social media post.
My answer: “Realistically, any time in the next week or two is fine, but society has conditioned us to expect a reply that day or the next at the latest.”
Affected by Others
After writing that note, I ruminated about how about many of us like to think we aren’t affected by how others around us act, but in reality we often are.
- Why else do we expect our food to be delivered in mere minutes—or less?
- Why else do we get antsy if the Walmart line forces us to linger longer than we think reasonable?
- Why do we despise waiting on hold for more than 30 seconds?
Such impatience can spill over into daily life with deadly consequences. When I read about some road rage incidents where one driver winds up dead, I wonder what pushed the attacker beyond reason.
Then if I think about it for very long, I am forced to admit that I too have demonstrated impatience too often, even if it doesn’t directly affect others in the private moments I fuss at my computer.
Delivering the Goods
Like the starry-eyed bride and groom at the altar, we can love to profess patience and kindness when actually exercising them is a whole other matter.
Ask any married couple if their spouse can push their buttons and cause them to blow their stack over minutiae that would have anyone else chuckling.
Ask any parent who has to repeat instructions to a child for what seems like the one hundredth time.
Ask any teacher who faces a group of students who can manufacture excuses and rationales for missed homework as if she never heard such lame stories before.
Patience delivered is much different than patience promised.
As I try to temper my impatience, I need to remember that: “With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day” (2 Peter. 3:8).
In other words, worthwhile results are often measured by months and years rather than minutes and days.
Patience, by its very nature, takes time.