Understanding Patience


Understanding Patience: What is it and what it is not

To understand what is patience, it will take a lot of patience (hehe). But in all seriousness, I have realized that generally, we do not grasp the essence of what Patience actually means. It took almost 29 years of life to truly understand what it means to have patience or be patient. We have all seen those words of wisdom that talks about patience. Some examples:

"The two most powerful warriors are Patience and Time" ~ Leo Tolstoy

"The practice of patience protects us from losing our composure. In doing that, it enables us to exercise discernment, even in the heat of difficult situations. It gives us inner space. And within that space, we gain a degree of self-control, which allows us to respond to situations in an appropriate and compassionate manner rather than being driven by our anger and irritation." ~ Dalai Lama

"Patience is the best remedy for every trouble." ~ Plautus

"Patience is a virtue" ~ unknown

There are so many more. All of these statements are true and I agree with them completely. However, how does one achieve such a status in which we can say that we have patience?

What is Patience?

The quote that struck home FOR ME, is --

"Patience is not the ability to wait but how you act while you're waiting." ~ Joyce Meyer

Let's dissect this quote.

"Patience is not the ability to wait", this part of the quote isn't patience. We all know that. But what eludes us is the fact that the essence of that phrase means TOLERANCE, not patience. The fundamental principle of tolerance is one being FORCED to be. Think of the times we had to wait for our food and it took a long time to arrive. We waited patiently for it yes, but what happens when it didn't arrive in a timely manner? We start to fidget and wonder where our food is. We are then placed in a situation where we are forced to wait. Leaving would mean we missed lunch/dinner. Cancelling involves ordering another dish which (in that circumstance) we will then assume will take a long time to arrive as well. So we forced ourselves to be "patient". This isn't patience, it is tolerance.

"..but how you act while you're waiting."
Once that patience starts wearing off, we called the waiter to check on the food. The first few times, we can still be pleasant and polite about it. But there will a point when we just could not take it any longer and then we forced ourselves to do something unpleasant such as making a scene, screaming at the waiter, or leave the restaurant. There is a choice to politely do all those things but that is still not the fundamental aspect of patience. 

We then have an opportunity to dig further into the true meaning of patience. I agree with this statement but only to a certain extent. Reacting positively to a bad situation is an act of patience. Reacting negatively to a bad situation CAN also be an act of patience. 

  • Patience breeds patience
  • Patience is infectious
  • Patience can be trained or gained OR be born with
  • Patience is less about rationalizing than acknowledging
  • Patience can be applied to every situation
  • Patience is not doing nothing
  • Patience is not simply being calm or reacting positively
  • Patience is not an external stimulation, it is an internal exudation
  • Patience is not a choice, it is an instinct
  • Patience is not 'suppressing your feelings'

Patience is your response to an occurrence

There are two entities that determine what Patience is:

Heart - Emotions, Feelings, Gut-feeling, Empathy
Patience is the instinctual acceptance that things happen because it has/had/will but NOT should happen

Example - A friend that is late 
Patience is the acceptance that this friend is late and not conjure up assumptions as to why he/she/they are late. The premise has been set that the friend is going to be late. The inability to accept the premise shall then breed anxiety, anger, or disappointment and it will manifest in certain reactions such as passive-aggressiveness, scoldings, loss of trust. It may even manifest in small acts such as pacing about, tapping of foot/fingers, visible disgust on the face, etc. More often than not, these displays of emotions can lead to an erosion of friendship, companionship. From both parties. Acceptance calms the heart and therefore, temper any emotional outbursts

Mind - Brain, Logic, Rationale, Intellect, Awareness
Patience also involves the follow-up reaction towards what has/had/will happen

As I mentioned above, sometimes reacting in a negative manner (scolding, shouting, outbursts of anger) can be an act of patience as well. But the key ingredient in differentiating between an act of patience or just simply an outburst of emotion is: to extract the best possible outcome. Patience does not mean becoming emotionless. Patience does not mean doing nothing nor does it mean positively doing something. Sometimes, we do require the occasional outbursts of emotions. Emotions are blessings for us humans. The reaction requires effort from the mind: to think of the best possible solution to the situation at hand. If a situation involves another party- the reaction requires a solution that extracts the best outcome according to the capabilities of the party.

Example - Long wait for an ordered meal
This is a fairly common occurrence in today's world- ordering a meal and it takes a while to arrive. Here are the most common reactions to the situation:

  • A stern telling-off to the waiter/deliverer
  • Speaking to the manager
  • Complaints / official feedbacks

Now, it is okay to do these things. However, one important aspect that eludes us is the appropriateness of our mannerisms in conveying the message. It is a choice to convey negatively or positively. For example, a stern telling-off to the waiter can either be appropriate or not. Could it be that he/she is the only one doing everything from being the cashier to cleaning tables? I have had one experience in a restaurant (in Japan) when there was only ONE person doing everything. Literally. Mind you, it is a self-cook restaurant, a hot pot-sort of place. One person did everything- preparing the food, cleaning tables, handling the cash register, cutting the meat, replenishing the available vegetables (buffet-style), answering phone calls, pouring water. Turns out, he was also the owner of the restaurant. That day was a labor holiday, thus, employees are on vacation but he chose to open up still. The restaurant was packed by the way. Obviously, it was hard to get a hold of him to refill our water yet he managed to keep the waiting to a minimum. He instantly became an inspiration to me. :P 

Will there be a case when it warrants a stern telling-off? Of course, there is. The judgement shall be based on how the situation became so. Are the waiters or cooks busy watching Netflix or playing games openly when the restaurant is packed? Even after a polite nudge, they persist in their activities? By all means. A negative reaction can vary from a stern nudge to outright rage.

Can we develop patience? Absolutely.

Patience develops from within, inwardly. But it takes a lot of practice until it becomes an instinctual response. Acceptance occurs either instantly or overtime. What we would like to achieve is: a shorter amount of time to accept something. It needs to take, as much as possible, the time it takes as to how you instinctively know that you are hungry or thirsty. Obviously, it will need some sort of training. 

Every time we are in a situation that isn't to our liking, the first step to take is to accept that the situation has occurred. Absorb that reality into yourself. An example: the death of a family member. No matter how tragic the situation is, it has happened. I am not saying that we can't be sad and not grieve. Far from that. You are expected to grieve and feel sad. By all means, cry and feel depressed but it should not be overly excessive. You know what they say, crying does not bring back the dead. Please understand that it hurts if someone we truly love moves on, especially so when "how" they moved on might be too sudden such as from an accident or from a needless act. 

The next step is to let things unfold. This is when "tolerating" gets confused with patience. If we really boil down things and take away the noises, we would realise that nothing has changed. Yes, life might change but the fact that our loved ones moved on hasn't changed the sky from blue to green, has not changed the fact that the sun still rises and sets. It is just our perception that has changed. Eventually, we will come to a point when the death of others becomes a memory, not reality. The idea is to practice that death is a memory from the beginning and not reality.

In conclusion 

Patience isn't tolerance and/or vice versa. Patience is your response to a certain event or situation that is completely out of our hands. Patience is not waiting calmly as that is considered as tolerance. May we all develop ourselves to display great patience outwardly towards the world. 


Disclaimer: If anyone disagrees on my word usages, please let me know down on the comments! I will look into it. My intention of these blog posts are simply means of reflection and should not be used for academic purposes or formulating conclusions. You are encouraged to look within yourself and do your own research. 


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