And, yes, we do have to find patience. Writer Albert Mohler has observed, “Patience is not optional for the Christian.” St. Paul repeatedly writes to the people in his scattered communities about being patient with each other—so often, in fact, that it’s clear they had as much trouble with patience as we do! But God may be at work in those with whom we are experiencing disagreement and conflict. How can we incorporate that knowledge in our daily lives?
- Look inside. When you find yourself experiencing impatience, stop and ask yourself, “why is this bothering me so much?” Chances are good that you’re upset disproportionally to the situation itself (does it really matter so much that someone cut in front of you in line?); understanding why it’s making you crazy can make you… less crazy.
- Count to 10. No, really. This simple and obvious trick absolutely works. When you’re done counting, most of your initial impulse (to yell, say something you’ll later regret, etc.) will go away. Impatience is an impulse, not a thought, and by delaying the impulse you allow for thought to step in.
- Just love. God loves this person; you can do the same. Your child just broke a family heirloom? Your coworker is too slow? Somebody at the movie theater keeps sniffling? Jesus died for them, too. God loves them in that moment. Take a deep breath and you’ll find that you can love them in spite of it all.
I’m constantly reminded of St. Francis of Assisi and his quote, “you may be the only Gospel your neighbor ever reads.” When the person ahead of me at the grocery store does something I don’t like, is the Gospel reflected in my reaction? As Catholics, we are role models for others, and the impulse of impatience, though clearly very human, is not sending the right message. The good news? Patience can be learned: we just have to try.