Patience: The capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset.
Virtue: A quality considered morally good or desirable in a person.
When I look at these two definitions, I think "Lack of patience has been a cornerstone of my life" and "Who WOULDN'T want to be considered virtuous?" And then I think "I'm a walking contradiction!"
For way too many years, I've bought into the concept that delay, trouble, and suffering were all meant for someone else. Therefore, my anger and temper-tantrums were perfectly natural, normal, and acceptable.
UM. Not so much.
Last time I checked, morally good or desirable behavior doesn't constitute acting like the world owes me a debt of gratitude or that everything should go my way or that life is all about me.
I think it all starts with taming the frustration that leads to anger. When I don't mind standing in the "20 Item or Less" lane with the white-haired lady, who isn't that aware of her surroundings or her basket-full of groceries, without grinding my teeth or checking the clock or letting out a big sigh, I will have made progress.
When I truly internalize that adding five minutes to my five minute drive because it means I'm less irritated with Sunday drivers, on-time to the place I'm going, and less of an accident waiting to happen, I will have made progress.
When I get that not every day is going to be picture perfect with my kids, that there will be spills and "SHUT UPs"*, and boy-on-boy hitting, and refuse to react with anything but kindness and gentleness and graciousness, I will have made progress.
None of these changes, in and of itself, are impossible to accomplish. They don't cost me a dime, just a little thought. They are small changes to small attitudes and behaviors that add up to a more patient lifestyle.
And did you notice the constant? It starts with changing ME, not the other guy.
I have no control over other people, as much as the world would like me to believe that is true. Sure, I have a small sphere of influence. But, the only real, true way that I make change happen is to start with myself.
But patience, like anger, is an area over which I DO have control. It is an area of my life that I am working toward on a daily basis because, like training for a race, it takes one step at a time. And some of those steps are going to be missteps, no matter how much I wish they weren't.
And, when I need to course correct? I'm reminded that God's mercies are a new every day. Therefore, I can work toward patience and make errors and ask for God's forgiveness when I fall short, instead of feeling like a complete and utter failure every time I get impatient.
Truthfully, I hunger for complete patience, in all times and in all things. More truthfully, I'm not sure it exists in the earthly realm, because life includes bills and children and traffic and sleepless nights.
But, even if perfection and a state of uber patience can never be reached, I'm convinced that the goal is one worth pursuing.
One day, one step at a time.
*Not coming from me, of course, but from the kids.