Dear Heavenly Father,
I prayed to you for patience. Still waiting…
I’m getting impatient.
Your daughter Katie
Have you ever had something going on in your life that was really testing your patience? Or perhaps you feel like there is a certain person God specifically anointed to tease every last patient nerve-ending in your body. Maybe you have gone through, or are in the process of, discerning a significant decision and you are getting unbearably antsy waiting for an answer. Patience is tough.
There aren’t enough hands in the world to count how many times I have heard someone say, “Patience is a virtue.” This comment confused me for years. When someone would articulate this point in the midst of another’s helpless, ugly impatience (many times that “another” was me), I would think, “Um…okay.” How exactly does telling me that patience is a virtue help squelch my impatience?
I suppose I should have thought to take this pithy remark apart. Patience is a virtue. Well, what’s a virtue?
According to the Catechism, a virtue is “an habitual and firm disposition to do the good” (CCC 1803). Believe it or not, this concise definition perfectly answers my skepticism about the worth of the commonly proclaimed phrase. Let me explain…
First let us look at the word habitual. We become more virtuous by making a habit of our virtues. In other words, if I want to be more patient, I better start making patience a habit. What happens when patience becomes a habit? Well, my disposition changes. I become a patient person. “Doing the good” becomes the default, not the exception.
Habits can take a fair amount of time to form. Your impatience with that major “thing,” person, or decision testing your patience right now will probably not dissolve into nonexistence simply at your pronouncing yourself a recovering impatient-aholic. But you can find patience to deal with these issues and people with time—time that unfolds as you develop your habits. God will help. He smiles when we try to grow in virtue.
Here’s how you make patience a habit: Be patient in little things. This is the best kind of practice. You have to crawl before you can run.
One of my sister’s old friends used to say something like, “Don’t you just hate it when the guy in front of you at the grocery store is buying out the whole place and you’re stuck behind him holding a pineapple? We laughed over this admittedly true story many times, but there is genius in the application of his story.
What if you took that opportunity in the grocery line to be patient, instead of letting out a few extra huffs, just loud enough for the item-eager customer in front of you to hear? What if you practiced a fleeting moment of patience in that pesky traffic, rather than thinking about how the driver in the car behind you should have never been given a license? What if you said a quick, silent prayer for patience before you mentally label your coworker as ignorant, your child as impossible, your parents as crazy?
What if you started working on being patient in little things? Well, you would probably form a habit. Then, you could be patient in big things.