QUESTION: What’s to be said about patience? Everywhere I go, people are zooming in and out of traffic, they are impatient in lines at the bank, the grocery store and any place else that requires waiting to get service. I’m a 75-year-old woman who wants to ask, “What’s the rush?” I learned a long time ago, in my early 20s, to “stop and smell the flowers” when I lost both my parents in a car accident. I became aware then what was really important in my life.
Do you have any words of wisdom that would help people remove themselves from this “fast-forward syndrome?”
~ Snail Trail Grandma
Dear Snail Trail Grandma,
Thank you for writing! It’s powerful when someone with your life experience shares something so personal that has made such a profound impact in their life.
Many of us need to value the quality of patience more than we do. I find great wisdom and truth in the Christian writings of Paul. In I Corinthians 13, he says that even if you have the ability to do miracles, possess great faith, are extremely generous, and are willing to die for what you believe – if you don’t have love, then it is all worthless. And then what is the first thing he says in his description of love? “Love is patient” (I Corinthians 13:4).
If we just stop and think for a moment, we can easily see why God would want us to be patient. Do we really benefit from all the stress, the frustration, and even anger that impatience produces in us? Does it help us to have more and closer relationships? In the most practical way, other people are not going to feel loved when I am impatient with them.
I am sure we all feel that it is a challenge to be patient. It has been said that patience is something you admire in the driver behind you, but not in the one ahead! Doesn’t it seem that whenever we need to learn patience, we never have time for the lesson? I guess that is why Paul writes about a degree of patience that only comes through allowing God to working powerfully in our life (see Galatians 5:22-25).
We can all relate to the uncomfortable feeling that other people are being impatient with us. We wish we could change everyone else but we know the only person we can change is ourselves. This requires us to be “patient with the impatient.” Perhaps that is where we need to focus our energy. It’s nice to know that God wants to help us.
Reese Neyland, Minister
Lifeway Church in Glendale
Dear Snail Trail Grandma,
Thank you so much for bringing to our attention our tendency to rush, rush, rush and to keep ourselves busy, busy, busy. I’m one of those people. I am really good in grocery store lines and overall am a very patient person. But my habit is to fill my days with too many things to do and then I’m overscheduled and running from one thing to another. Being a person who makes her living by being an example of what it means to be in relationship with God and how that manifests in my life, I was finally brought to a halt. It wasn’t anything big, I just sat down before running off to a meeting a couple of Saturdays ago. I sat down, drank my coffee, quieted my mind and prayed. In the Episcopal Church, we have some great prayer books and meditative resources and I just picked up one of my books and read through some prayers. And then I remembered, this is what life’s about. Life is about reconnecting with God if I’m feeling disconnected, being conscious and aware of the Holy presence in my life every day and that’s it. It’s not about what I do, or how much I accomplish, or how fast I get somewhere. Am I fully present in my day? Am I aware and acknowledging the Christ in the people I meet each day? Taking a breath and having an attitude of gratitude can bring me right back into the present moment.
Hopefully we can cultivate a way of living that brings us into union with God without having to go through a tragic loss as you talked about in your letter. But often times it is those events in our lives that stop us in our tracks and give us pause. Let’s learn to connect with each other and with the Holy before something tragic happens to wake us up. Let’s wake up and, as you say, smell the roses now.
Holly Cardone Stauffer
St. Luke’s of the Mountains Episcopal Church
QUESTION: Next door to us is a man who blames everyone and everything for his lot in life, from his first wife (he is now in his third marriage) to the employer who just laid him off. According to him, the government (all governments – city, state and federal) are dens of thieves. Even though we want to be neighborly, my wife and I have a difficult time trying to even have a conversation with this guy because every conversation with him turns into a monologue. When we see him coming, we want to run and hide, which isn’t possible because most of the time he catches us when we’re gardening.
We’re sorry he has gone through some stormy times in his life, but so have we all. Is there a kind way of letting him know we’d rather not be the brunt of his tirades?
~ Had Enough
Dear Had Enough,
Exactly how much do you want to be rid of this guy’s tirades? I certainly sympathize with you, and I appreciate your not wanting to hurt the guy’s feelings. But if you’re tough enough, maybe you can have an impact for the positive.
Here’s what I mean, and it comes from a psychologist friend of mine: be direct, honest, and respectful. Most of us, including yours truly, can be direct and honest, especially when we get angry. But do try to be respectful as well. When he says, for example, that all governments are composed of thieves, tell him, “I’m sorry, but I just don’t agree. I may not like what some in government say or do, but I simply don’t believe that everybody in office is a crook.”
Also, and this next item is tricky, try to make the point that in most divorces it takes two to tango. Some divorces may be completely the fault of that no-good other spouse, but not usually. It just could be that this guy’s first wife was looking for something different than what she got, and maybe our hero presented himself as somebody he wasn’t. I myself am married for the second time, and there are certain things that anger me about my first wife. But I have to take responsibility for my actions in that failed relationship, and perhaps one was trying to make her fit the image that I had created in my mind for her.
Anyway, one of the great things about repentance is the shining of an honest light on oneself and then taking responsibility for one’s actions and one’s life. But it’s a lot easier and non-threatening to blame everybody else … except yourself.
Dear Had Enough,
Blaming is a losing game. Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, tells us that: “A person who feels inferior tries to place blame for his faults and shortcomings on others. He is afraid to take responsibility for what he does and blames everyone except himself.”
The kindest way to approach this situation that might actually alter his tirades is to interrupt him when he has just gotten started on blaming, saying; “Yes, I am sorry things haven’t gone so well for you.” Change the focus right away; try, for example, “Wow, look at that sky, the beauty around us is filling my heart with joy, do you see it?” He might be angry that you have disturbed his usual negativity. Act like you don’t even notice because you are in your joyful place. If he continues, say, “I came out to my garden to be with the fragrant earth and the gorgeous sky and to see the how the worms aerate the soil and to plant my new tulip bulbs.” (Of course, these are only examples; you must say what you see, in your own words, while you connect with the good things in your heart and the world around you.)
Your unrelenting positivity will overcome his desire to dump his bad feelings on you. It is just not satisfying to dump on someone who does not cooperate and commiserate.
Don’t be discouraged if he regards your new behavior as that you aren’t willing to be with him and he gets mad at you. If that is the case, over time he will give up choosing you to dump on and he might stop dumping altogether. Be steadfast in your joy. Be committed to your happy demeanor. Do not let him be the author of your connection to your positive
outlook and personal peace.
Rabbi Janet Bieber
Jewish Community and Learning Center of the Foothills