One encyclopedic definition of patience is “the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset.” In the Bible, patience is mentioned as a virtue along with chastity, temperance, generosity, diligence, kindness, and modesty. I take issue with that definition of patience. If patience accepts suffering without discomfort or anger, I can confidently say that patience is not my virtue. On the other hand, if patience is about knowing something is challenging and worthwhile, then patience is aspirational and about becoming. Patience then is more of a value.
I lean towards the description of patience given to us by Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi, the Persian poet, and scholar.
“Patience is not sitting and waiting, it is foreseeing. It is looking at the thorn and seeing the rose, looking at the night and seeing the day. Lovers are patient and know that the moon needs time to become full.”
I value patience, and I am in awe of naturally gifted persons, those who gravitate towards careers where the work requires them to face delays and difficulty to finalize a product or a project and do so with great relish. I have family and friends that seem naturally unperturbed by delays and barriers that cause them suffering. However, if patience is a virtue, it is not my virtue!
Nature hardwired me with an impatient spirit. In elementary school, my brain moved so quickly that my hands couldn’t keep up. Homework papers were barely legible. My teachers acknowledged me as a bright student who had to be forced to write legibly. All my life, I have been the person who rips open a box containing an item that comes with instructions, clearly marked, “some assembly required.” I have a compulsion to put together items based on my intuition rather than simply reading the directions. A recipe for a ‘do-over.’
I am known to get into my car, head for a destination without calculating the distance or difficulty of the drive. As I get older, thank God, I do that much less.
I’m saying that life has a way of bringing us what we need to mold our growth, and I am always aware of being a blob of clay spinning on the Divine Potter’s Wheel. There are three celestial interventions that changed my trajectory and moved me towards the very aspirational goal of patience. Yes, I am becoming patient! And it has not been without delays or pain. Being a parental figure, becoming a gardener, and becoming a caregiver have all contributed to the Universe’s intention that I develop an enhanced degree of patience.
My family is large because I needed more opportunities to develop patience. I am a matriarchal figure for five children, thirteen grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. They say if you don’t learn a lesson the first time, you repeat it!
Falling in love with the miracle of tending seeds and small plantlets to maturity is also a part of my march to becoming more patient. Potting, watering, fertilizing, watching soil conditions, and waiting until the rewarding bursting forth of flowers and vegetables has earned me the title of a gardener.
And finally, the cherry atop the sundae of my life has been the deepening spiritual wisdom and grace I leaned into as a caregiver. Helping to care for my mother as she faced her end-of-life challenges and having the privilege of walking her across the finish line was the most difficult and rewarding journey I have ever undertaken.
Watching the hero of my life, the woman who gave her flighty, creative, and impatient child, the grounding that has allowed me to stand and face life without shrinking, require my strength was humbling. Yet, when she needed to be lifted, my sister Yvonne and I were strong and capable because of what she had instilled in us. We linked arms around her and one another until the very end. Love undergirds every struggle in a way that nothing else can.
Is patience a virtue or a value? I don’t have a definitive answer. But as I continue becoming patient, I will keep you posted.
Susan D. Peters, aka, Ahnydah (ah-NIE-dah) Rahm, brings a wealth of experience gained as an expatriate living in West Africa. Her memoir Sweet Liberia, Lessons from the Coal Pot, received the Black Excellence Award for Non-Fiction from the African American Alliance of Chicago and the Mate E. Palmer award for Non-Fiction from the Illinois Press Women’s Association. Stolen Rainbow, a short story focused on the post combat recovery of a beautiful marine captain after a devastating combat injury. Broken Dolls, represents Susan’s foray into mystery writing and is the first of a series featuring the flawed Detective Joi Sommers as its heroine. The second Joi Sommers mystery, The Iron Collar is a riveting story with multiple ingenious twists, and Slay the Dragon the third in the series, illuminates the sexual exploitation of children in expected and unexpected ways. Susan’s work is featured in numerous anthologies. Buy her books online and at www.SusanDPeters.com.