If I had a dollar for every time I’ve prayed for more patience, I’d be one rich lady by now. Hopefully I’ve at least accrued a substantial lump of grace and time off in purgatory for my patience prayers.
It seems I’m not the only one desperately calling out prayers for more patience. Praying for patience is the “in” thing to do, you know. So if you’re ever in a situation where you have to offer up a prayer intention in a group, just pray for patience and you’ll get many knowing nods from everyone, especially if you are with a bunch of moms or dads.
This is because being a mother or father, dealing with a child or a whole gaggle of children day in and day out can really wear us down. Yes, yes, we love our kids but when they aren’t all sweet and cute they can act incredibly obnoxious, stubborn, and just plain annoying. They have selective-hearing and like to hear you say the same thing over and over…and over again throughout the day. Or they just plain don’t hear you, except of course when it comes to certain sounds like that of a candy bar being ever so quietly unwrapped in the bathroom or master bedroom closet. The phrases, “Come here!”, “Right now!” and “[Please] Stop!” either bear absolutely no significance to them or inspire dyslexic responses instead. I used to think Bill Cosby was joking about the whole “brain damage” thing but the older our kids get the more my husband and I understand how serious he was.
These moments are incredibly frustrating and cause all sorts of interesting face contortions and noises to come from our mouths, and sometimes ears & noses. (Again, Bill Cosby is a hilarious genius on that point as well.) If you and your kids are lucky all those inner convulsions you are trying to repress will force you down to your knees in supplication rather than send you into toddler-tantrum-like conniptions in front of your children (or husband).
Parenting is hard but you don’t have to have children or even work with children to feel impatient from time to time. Working with a bunch of adults all day in one little box with no windows can conjure up similar feelings and reactions. Even those who pray for patience 100 times a day get to a breaking point sooner or later. (Although we’ve probably all been warned that praying for more patience will only create more opportunities to “practice” it.) One of the hardest things about patience is the waiting. Waiting for a child to listen and obey, waiting for a boss or co-worker to respond to your email(s), waiting for God to send some sort of answer, anything, in response to a situation or problem you’re dealing with, waiting for people (or God even) to do what we want them to do and on our time table.
I often tell my kids that being patient means waiting nicely for me. Wikipedia defines patience as,
The state of endurance under difficult circumstances, which can mean persevering in the face of delay or provocation without acting on annoyance/anger in a negative way; or exhibiting forbearance when under strain, especially when faced with longer-term difficulties. Patience is the level of endurance one can take before negativity. It is also used to refer to the character trait of being steadfast.
Similarly the Catholic definition of patience defines it as,
A form of the moral virtue of fortitude. It enables one to endure present evils without sadness or resentment in conformity with the will of God. Patience is mainly concerned with bearing the evils caused by another. The three grades of patience are: to bear difficulties without interior complaint, to use hardships to make progress in virtue, and even to desire the cross and afflictions out of love for God and accept them with spiritual joy. (Etym. Latin patientia, patience, endurance; from patiens, suffering.)
Reflecting more on that definition makes me blush and hang my head down in shame. While I’m staring down at the ground, I realize that patience is essentially about HUMILITY.
When things aren’t going our way or when people are not acting in the way we would like them to, it takes a lot of humility to pause, and realize that we are not the center of universe. We have to remember the other person and think not only about ourselves. When our kids, coworkers, and fellow human beings that we share our lives with won’t listen to us and do what we say or what we want them to do, we have to take a step out of ourselves and try and see things from their perspective. This doesn’t always mean we have to change what we are asking or expecting of someone if it is something good and important (like not crossing 4 lanes of oncoming traffic alone). Being humble will allow us to be patient and bear these frustrating times peacefully while we either wait for an answer or response, or, the hardest thing, change ourselves or “accept what we cannot change.”
In those moments of extreme frustration and impatience we can not only ask God for “more patience, please!” but maybe a slice of humble pie to go along with it also.