Patience: What We Admire In Others

I’ve heard Patience defined, not as the ability to wait, but the ability to wait with a good attitude. Patience is a wonderful thing, but no one wants to have it for themselves. We want other people to be patient. The value in patience is that we get to see events unfold and we can gain deeper understandings. Patience is something that is learned. It doesn’t come naturally.

I grew up in Metropolitan New York City. Patience is not a virtue there. Getting out of someone’s way is a virtue. The expression, “In a New York Minute,” is not an exaggeration. The New York culture expects everything to be done instantaneously. The real issue for me was speed. When I was a teen, I wanted everything done now. There was no such thing as waiting and patience.

I learned patience years later when I lived in Chicago in the 1970s. I was still driving like a New Yorker, which fared well for me in the Windy City. The bad part was that such driving, at best, is extremely rude. If someone was in my way, I tended to ride their bumper, honk my horn, and do whatever it took to get them out of my way. I’m sure my blood pressure was going through the roof. Usually, people got out of my way, and I got to go where I wanted to go the eight seconds sooner than I would have if I had been patient.

On this one particular day, the sun had just set, there was a lot of rush hour traffic, and a car in front of me was taking way too long in my opinion to merge onto the expressway. I started honking my horn and riding their bumper, in an attempt to get the person to move. Just before I was about to roll down my window and “encourage” the driver to take a driving class, the lights from oncoming traffic illuminated the rear window of the car in front of me. I saw that it was an old lady, and it was easy to see she was scared to death, and I was the one who scared her. I was horrified that I was behaving so badly. It went against my basic values to treat anyone that way. I immediately backed off, but more than that, I was so deeply effected that I changed the way I drove and the way I related to other people. It is my belief that if I am living my life as a living sacrifice, people should be seeing not me, but the life of Yeshua in me. The way I was acting made it impossible for anyone to see Yeshua in me.

Our attitudes are not just what comes out when we feel strongly about something. We have the ability to control how we react to situations around us. You don’t have to behave badly when you get mad. You don’t have to lose control. One of the Fruits of the Spirit is self-control. if we are really living a life that is sacrificial to God, a life of Torah, self-control should be evident in us. The real question is not simply sitting on our emotions until we eventually explode. The real question is how do we wait with a good attitude? The more you consider that your life is in God’s hands, and that what you have is not based on your ability to grab, but in the kindness and sovereignty of God, the less anxiety you will have about getting where you want and what you want before someone else grabs it. You are then free to act in kindness, and let others go first.

Its more important to me that I treat people well, than to grab what I want at the expense of others. Who’s life are you living out? Your’s or Yeshua’s?

also posted in Riverton Mussar: A Wellspring For Ethical Change

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3 thoughts on “Patience: What We Admire In Others

    • Actually, Rabbi Resnik and I are Chevrutas. We study together. We also both write for Riverton Mussar, but our writings are connected by theme, not content. I’m glad you read our stuff!

  1. Ah, patience: that quality that goes against the first reactions of most people, myself included. As I may have said before, talk is cheap. Actually being patient is a very hard thing to do, yet it is a quality I know God wants to see in all of us. It’s one thing to sit and wait for someone to do something, or to be patient with some blabbermouth I don’t agree with, BUT what is going on in my own mind while I wait? Oops!

    Rabbi, thank you for a very well thought out and thoughtfully stated post.

    God, please straighten all these people out, but I guess you need to start with me.

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