The Difficult Art of Being Patient

For all those who are suffering.

My favorite saying from my early teens to my early forties was “Wo Macht und Geduld im Wettstreit liegen, da setze auf die Geduld”. Which roughly translates as “Where might and patience compete, bet on patience.” (It sounds more poetic in German. If you have a better translation, please let me know.)

And I tried to live by it. But lately, I realized a) that I have very little patience for myself and b) that I might have misunderstood what patience means. Utterly and completely misunderstood.

Patience isn’t indifferent

My uncle’s droning on and on and on about his work (he’s retired) and his illnesses (he has quite a few.) I’m standing there. I nod. I make listening noises. I desperately wish I was somewhere (or someone!) else.

Patience? I don’t think so. Politeness? Probably. Indifference? Quite a lot. I’ve been better at being human.

Real patience would have been present, caring. It’d asked questions. Found the right moment to make a real connection — at least, it would have tried.

Patience isn’t passive

I’m exited. The straw fire burns down. I get down. I eat too much, sleep too little. I suffer. I desperately want for things to be different. And I wait for it to happen. And wait, and wait, and wait. And wait.

Indifference? Not this time. Laziness? Perhaps it’s part of it. Patience? Again, definitely not.

Real patience would have tried to change things. And when it failed, it would have tried and tried again. But not by being judgmental or harsh or pushy, but by looking for the way in (or out), varying its approach. By being kind, curious and present.

Patience = Trying again + Being Kind and Curious + Being Present

Patience is strong, but soft. It’s water wearing down a mountain. It ebbs and flow, but it never gives up. It’s like first after a fire, constantly renewing itself.

This kind of patience, real patience, will win out over might. You can bet on it.

Over to you

What’s your definition of patience? Where did you succeed in using it? Where did you fail?

I’d love to hear from you in the notes or responses.

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