You wait for the mouse but it doesn’t appear. You make a phone call but there is no answer. You’ve hurt your foot and can’t get on with some activity. It seems that having to suffer some delay, difficulty or discomfort is a common event in everyday life. Who doesn’t feel irritated by the frustrations of life? When in the grip of such emotion it is easy to lash out, to put others on the defensive and make the situation worse. How can you avoid feeling frustrated? Here are some tips for transforming aggravation into patience.
Remembering the benefits of patience
Gardening teaches the benefits of patience. You plant something and it can take a year to flower or longer for a tiny seed to grow into a tree.
If you are prepared to calmly wait instead of trying to grab what you want, you will be investing quality time in something without giving up or giving in. Having patience avoids the stress of getting all steamed up over things you cannot change. When you can stay calm, centred and not acting rashly out of frustration, all areas of your emotional life are likely to improve.
Patience from reflection
Reflecting on the possible causes of delays and frustrations can help you to understand why things are likely to take longer than you had expected. In this way you can avoid jumping to unwarranted conclusions and challenge your fanciful imagination. This means you are making a conscious choice to become clearly aware of your hasty guess e.g. that someone intended to cause you grief. Then you can assess the likelihood of it really being true. Such reflection can help induce a state of patience.
Patience from looking
When you are obliged to wait for what you want, why not look for something in the present moment experience that might arouse your interest. Like empathising with an overwrought shop assistant. Seeing things from someone else’s perspective can only reduce one’s own sense of grievance. Perhaps you can find something pleasing that you hadn’t noticed at first. Looking for the good in a situation instead of being preoccupied with the bad. This is an example of an attitude of mindfulness i.e. living in the moment and being awake to experience.
Patience from not justifying impatience
It can feel unfair if you are told to have patience and to accept a delay. After all it wasn’t your fault that you have been blocked. It seems unreasonable that you shouldn’t push to get what you need. This impatient attitude is seeing patience as equivalent to passive resignation. Seeing patience as apathetically giving into difficulty that instead should be seen as a challenge. You want to override whatever is stopping you moving forward. So you might agree with Ambrose Bierce who once said that ‘patience is a minor form of despair, disguised as a virtue’. Or with Kin Hubbard who said that ‘lack of pep is often mistaken for patience’.
But aren’t many hindrances just beyond our ability to control? You cannot alter some things in life – such as bad weather or a general economic recession. Okay, it may be true that there is something one can alter to make some progress. But jumping the queue or trying to rush things may be bad for someone else and possibly counterproductive for you. Is this really what you want? One of my favourite sayings is ‘You can only do what you can do.’ I would suggest patience doesn’t make anyone a doormat. In order to follow one’s principles, one cannot immediately expect to get one’s own way all the time.
All this amounts to examining your ways of thinking. This often will show how it is the mind that is the cause of discomfort, not the outer circumstances. What is crucial is the choice one makes when faced with any particular situation. You either wait on the phone listening to music or you phone back at a less busy time. In other words a feeling of impatience is a habitual response to an external trigger – a response that could be different.
Patience from honesty
Try answering these questions. ‘What are you impatient for?’ and ‘Why the hurry?’ Is it to do with pursuing something really worthwhile or is it something that can wait. Are you really desperate for that bit of information to satisfy what may turn out to be idle curiosity, or that food snack to remove pangs of hunger, or that way out of a social obligation so that you can get on with what we want to do.
“You can learn many things from children. How much patience you have, for instance.” (Franklin P. Jones)
Aren’t we all prone to wanting immediate gratification? Learn to recognise the impulse ‘I want it now, and later simply will not do.’ And then consider an alternative way of thinking.
Patience from a considering religious perspectives
Sacred writing encourages patience in the context of inner conflict and temptation. For example in the Bible, the book of Revelation offers hope to those with patience suffering persecution for the sake of what they believe to be good and true. How tempting it must be to give up one’s principles because of the ridicule and contempt of others for what one holds dear.
One such principle is that of trust in a divine power who provides for one’s eternal needs even if temporal ones are frustrated.
According to this view, patience comes from a deep attitude of contentment with life as it is. I would suggest that this inner patience comes easily to people when they allow themselves to be led by the lessons of life rather than indignantly dwelling on the unsatisfied desires of ego. When you don’t get what you want, are you willing to patiently acquiesce to the providential flow of life?
“We could never learn to be brave and patient, if there were only joy in the world.” (Helen Keller)
Copyright 2015 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author Heart, Head & Hands (https://spiritualquestions.org.uk/2012/10/heart-head-hands-ebook/)