Patience: A companion of Wisdom

Woodrow Wilson, our 28th president, said this about patience: “All things come to he who waits — provided he knows what he is waiting for.”

It is difficult to believe that at least one-third of our lives is spent waiting for something: to be born, go to school, graduate, decide upon a career path, perhaps get married, grow old, and, eventually wait for that final curtain to come down. If all that waiting is true, we had better try to become more patient — right now!

Patience is an indispensably valuable and effective tool of interpersonal communication. It’s a way of completely changing the fundamental human habit of trying to resolve things by going right or left, in or out, up or down. It’s the way to develop courage, a way to finding out what life is really about.

There are many situations in everyday life that require being patient. If not with others, certainly with ourselves. Each of us has a sense of how long it should take to do something. When we encounter someone whose sense of timing conflicts with ours, we often become a little impatient.

To illustrate the importance of patience, a spiritual teacher conducted the following experiment. He announced to his congregation that, on the following weekend, he would be conducting a series of spiritual workshops. At the beginning of the first session, he unexpectedly announced that he was not feeling well and that he would like to postpone it until the following weekend.

At the next meeting, he again announced that he was not feeling well and that a second postponement would be necessary. At the 3rd meeting, he announced still another postponement to a very frustrated congregation.

At the 4th meeting, only a handful of people showed up. He looked at the small group and said,” You are the true seekers of spiritual knowledge.”

Their ability and willingness to endure the three postponements was a compelling example of how patience made all the difference.

The elderly have a reputation of telling the same story repeatedly and are constantly in search of someone who will listen. This also happens to the younger generation. A new faculty member at a local university had just published his first book. Upon his return from a summer break, a colleague asked, “What’s new?” Before he could boast about his new book, his colleague extended his “what’s new” question to include “… that would be of interest to me.”

We all have a story to tell and usually are pleased when we meet someone with the patience and courtesy to hear it.

Psychologists earn a living listening to people unload their emotional baggage. They need to exercise a great deal of patience to keep them from interrupting a patient’s psychological monologue.

Patience is not an inherent trait. If anything, newborns and small children are incredibly impatient: “Are we there yet?”

Immediacy is the best word to describe their mind-set. Selfishness is the second best word.

In the New Testament, the biblical figure of Job had his patience severely tested. His response to his sufferings stand as a memorial to his unshakable faith. He could have, at any time, put an end to his suffering, but his patience enabled him to withstand the intolerable suffering.

We all have an untapped reservoir of patience. It costs nothing and is readably available and easily accessed. What it requires is will-power.

Unfortunately, you cannot expect unexercised patience to serve your needs. Small doses of patience, like a snowball rolling down a hill, get progressively stronger in time.

Think about someone you know who is very patient and someone who is very impatient. What is there about their personality and character that makes them different? Are extroverts more patient than introverts, men more patient than women? These questions have puzzled psychologist for decades. There are many theories, but few viable conclusion.

For a final taste of patience, here is how three famous minds conceptualized it:

How many a man has thrown up his hands at a time when a little more effort, a little more patience would have achieved success. — Elbert Hubbard.

Adopt the pace of Nature; her secret is patience. —Ralph W. Emerson.

Patience serves as a protection against wrongs as clothes do against cold. For if you put on more clothes as the cold increases, it will have no power to hurt you. So in like manner you must grow in patience when you meet with great wrongs, and they will be powerless to burden your mind. — Leonardo Da Vinci.

— Professor Eisenberg was born in New York City and now lives in Belleair Bluffs. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps in World War II. His career consisted of teaching interpersonal/intercultural communication, public speaking, organizational communication, nonverbal communication, group dynamics, and persuasion at four major universities including Pace University and Manhattanville College in New York. His publications include 19 textbooks on various aspects of communication. Send comments to: aeisenberg3@tampabay.rr.com.

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