Patience: A hard-won virtue

If “patience” could be bottled and sold, “patience,” the sellers would be rich beyond their wildest dreams.

Patience is a virtue, and if practiced on a regular basis, can protect us from being tempted toward anger, and in some situations, rage.

All of us experience tension in our lives requiring us to practice a lot of tolerance and acceptance. The tension happens in our families, friendships, workplaces, churches, communities and within our conversations around other people, politics and current events.

Being good-hearted souls, we carry that tension with patience, self-control, respect and divine grace.

At a certain point, however, we feel ourselves stretched to the limit, growing weary of doing what is right, feeling something snap inside of us, and we hear some inner-voice say: “Enough! I’ve put up with this too long. I won’t tolerate this anymore.”

And we let go by venting and giving back in kind, or simply by fleeing the situation with an attitude of good riddance. Either way, we refuse to carry the tension any longer.

But that exact point, when we have to choose between giving up or holding on, carrying tension or letting it go is a crucial moral place that determines character.

A person’s spiritual condition, compassion and maturity often show itself around these questions: How much tension can we carry? How great is our patience and restraint? How much can we put up with?

As mature parents, we put up with a lot of tension when raising our children. The same goes for mature teachers who try to open the minds and hearts of students. Mature friends take in a lot of tension but remain faithful to one another.

As Christians we put up with a lot of tension when helping absorb the immaturity of our churches.

Men and women show character when they can walk with patience, respect, self-control and divine grace while surrounded by crushing and unfair pressure. It’s about doing right rather than being right.

In an article I read recently about dealing with grief, the author also wrote about patience. It was a story about a boy who fell through the ice when he was skating and was left clinging, cold and alone, to the edge of the ice with no help in sight.

As he hung on in what he believed was a hopeless situation, he was tempted to just let go because no one was going to come and rescue him. But he held on.

At the point he thought everything appeared hopeless, he chose to hang on one more minute, and at the end of that extra minute, help arrived.

The moral of the story was that a young boy lived because he had the courage and strength to hang on one minute longer.

When I read this story, it reminded me about something my dearest friend said years ago. She said it’s imperative to stay the course long enough, hang on when it seems hopeless and suffer the cold and aloneness while we wait for a new day.

After our son, Joey, died so suddenly, someone said that often it takes a death to bring a family closer together, and to remind one another of how important family is.

In death, though, Joey has taught me that I have to make the most of my time here because it could be my last moment.

There have been many times since Joey’s death that I wanted to let go, but I keep holding on awaiting rescue. Probably the hardest part of losing someone so dear to us are those things that were left unsaid.

I will be patient, though, and continue to learn the lessons I need here on Earth applying the seven heavenly virtues. We all only have one life to live and we need to make it count. God bless all of us.

Patty Decker writes news and features for the Free Press. You can reached her at patty@hillsborofreepress.com