“Practice Patience” Sub-Pages:
Patience in the Little Things
Parents of young children, especially, are given the gift each day of many, many opportunities for practicing patience. Of course we don’t tend to see these as gifts. And it is our loss if we never learn to see them that way.
I do think patience with little ones is particularly difficult in our culture which places so much emphasis on efficiency and at the same time tends to be so harried. I was very fortunate to read The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey when my oldest children were very young. Perhaps the most important thing I picked up from it was the idea of setting aside efficiency when dealing with people, especially very young and energetic people, like toddlers.
You [should] think effectiveness with people and efficiency with things… I see many parents, particularly mothers with small children, often frustrated in their desire to accomplish a lot because all they seem to do is meet the needs of little children all day. Remember, frustration is a function of our expectations, and our expectations are often a reflection of the social mirror rather than our own values and priorities. – Stephen Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
It is certainly something I have struggled with over the years, but having that principle in the background has helped me sort things out in the right direction many times, and even helped me to enjoy my children more.
Patience as a By-product of Hope
In the realm of trying to address the serious problems in our culture, such as abortion, politics and protests and boycotts have their place, but they will not in-and-of themselves repair our culture. They’re generally defensive measures to keep things from getting worse. But if no one is out there evangelizing and proposing the good and showing by the power of witness the value of being a Christian, we can’t make real progress. Also, politics can have a way of skewing things so that we forget to look on those “across the aisle” from us as people made in the image and likeness of God.
There are many wonderful things about the pro-Life movement and by its nature the movement is completely unselfish. We’re trying to save children for their own sakes, as lives that are intrinsically worthwhile.
One thing that the movement can use some work on, though, is hope. When we despairingly say (and I’ve heard it said often from many directions) that we haven’t made any progress in the pro-Life movement in the last thirty or forty years, I have to think that they haven’t been around the movement long enough. Parental notification laws and 24 hour waiting periods are really good things and very reasonable, helpful restrictions. Not only do they have a tendency to limit abortion, but once the culture accepts reasonable limits, it helps people to see abortion more clearly as a negative thing. When we proclaim that we haven’t made any progress it leads many to conclude that the political aspect of the pro-Life movement is completely irrelevant. It’s really just a sign of our impatience.
Recognizing the good in the culture and the successes we have had in the pro-Life movement shows gratitude to God and builds perspective, which helps us keep our balance in tough times. Balance is important not just so that we don’t fall into despair (which does not come from God!) but also so that we don’t make ourselves irrelevant by giving people excuses to ignore us.
One thing I’ve observed over time is that it simply takes a lot of patience for grass-roots movements to connect up with the mainstream. But it does happen!
And with patience, goes humility. The things that need changing in this world are not all the job of one person. If we each play our unique role, using whatever gifts God has given us for the purpose, and relying on His strength, we can make real progress.
This proper way of serving others also leads to humility. The one who serves does not consider himself superior to the one served, however miserable his situation at the moment may be. Christ took the lowest place in the world – the Cross – and by this radical humility he redeemed us and constantly comes to our aid. Those who are in a position to help others will realize that in doing so they themselves receive help; being able to help others is no merit or achievement of their own. This duty is a grace. The more we do for others, the more we understand and can appropriate the words of Christ: “We are useless servants”. We recognize that we are not acting on the basis of any superiority or greater personal efficiency, but because the Lord has graciously enabled us to do so. There are times when the burden of need and our own limitations might tempt us to become discouraged. But precisely when we are helped by the knowledge that, in the end, we are only instruments in the Lord’s hands; and this knowledge frees us from the presumption of thinking that we alone are personally responsible for building a better world. In all humility we will do what we can, and in all humility we will entrust the rest to the Lord. – Pope Benedict XVI, Deus Caritas Est