As we have all learned, as virtues go, patience is a quiet one. It’s often exhibited behind closed doors, not on a public stage: A father telling a third bedtime story to his son, a dancer waiting for her injury to heal. In public, it’s the impatient ones who grab all our attention: drivers honking in traffic, grumbling customers in slow-moving lines. We have epic movies exalting the virtues of courage and compassion, but a movie about patience might be a bit of a snoozer.

Yet patience is essential to daily life—and might be critical to a happy one. Having patience means being able to wait calmly in the face of frustration or adversity, so anywhere there is frustration or adversity—i.e., nearly everywhere—we have the opportunity to practice it. At home with our kids, at work with our colleagues, at the grocery store with half our city’s population, patience can make the difference between annoyance and composure, between worry and calmness.

Religions and philosophers have long praised the virtue of patience; now, researchers are starting to do so as well. Recent studies have found that, sure enough, good things really do come to those who wait. Some of these science-backed benefits are detailed below, along with ways to cultivate more patience in your life.

Kira M. Newman, writer, editor, and producer of material for all the Greater Good Science Center’s websites, shares how several important influences can be had by practicing patience. One of them is patient people enjoy better mental health. This finding is probably easy to believe if you call to mind the stereotypical impatient person: face red, head steaming. And sure enough, according to a study by Fuller Theological Seminary professor Sarah A. Schnitker and UC Davis psychology professor Robert Emmons, patient people tend to experience less depression and negative emotions, perhaps because they can cope better with upsetting or stressful situations. They also rate themselves as more mindful and feel more gratitude, more connection to mankind and the universe, and a greater sense of abundance.

Another thing this virtue rewards us with is that Patient people are better friends and neighbors. In relationships with others, patience becomes a form of kindness. Think of the best friend who comforts you night after night over the heartache that just won’t go away or the grandchild who smiles through the story, she has heard her grandfather tell countless times. Indeed, research suggests that patient people tend to be more cooperative, more emphatic, more equitable, and more forgiving. “Patience involves emphatically assuming some personal discomfort to alleviate the suffering of those around us,” writes Debra R. Comer and Leslie E. Sekerka in their study of patience.

One more thing is that patience helps us achieve our goals with more satisfaction. The road to achievement is a long one, and those without patience—who want to see results immediately—may not be willing to walk it. Think of the recent critiques of millennials for being unwilling to “pay their dues” in an entry-level job, jumping from position to position rather than growing and learning. In her study, Sarah A. Schnitker also examined whether patience helps students get things done.

In five surveys they completed over the course of a semester, patient people of all stripes reported exerting more effort toward their goals than other people did. Those with interpersonal patience, in particular, made more progress toward their goals and were more satisfied when they achieved them (particularly if those goals were difficult) compared with less patient people. According to Schnitker’s analysis, that greater satisfaction with achieving their goals explained why these patient achievers were more content with their lives as a whole.

Another thing we can experience through patience is that it shows high moral standards. When things get uncomfortable in life, patience is a virtue, and it will help you deal with the discomfort in a way that best suits your life and the people around you. Patience is an exercise of self-control that shows you can handle life when times get tough, have the ability to look outside of yourself, and can withstand judgment when you need to. In short, exhibiting patience shows that you have a high moral standard in life.

This then also exhibits some significant traits or attributes. For instance, exhibiting patience means that you can be persistent and stay in something for the long run. You don’t try to cut corners or do things in an unethical way; instead, you patiently work things out, do what needs to be done, and make things happen, and the commitment is a testament to your ability to stay with what is right and what will bring you the results you want.

Another thing is that you resist any temptation to ruin things for other people. Patience is a virtue because it requires self-control. It requires you to have the insight to think about other people and their happiness. Think of this when someone cuts in line ahead of you, or a person steals the parking spot you’ve been patiently waiting for. Along with this, patient people do not stress themselves by behaving in such a way that does not benefit them. It doesn’t matter how much you stomp your feet, complain, or whine, what you want is not going to happen any faster because you are impatient.

Then we also discover that doing great things take longer. After all, the Taj Mahal in India took a whole lot more time to build than some of the houses we see constructed on HGTV. Keep this in mind, not everyone runs on your schedule. When you are impatient, you are often demanding that other people run on your schedule. This is a very selfish way of viewing and interacting with other people, and it shows just how self-absorbed you can be. Many times, having patience for the right moment to come is more important than doing it when you want to get it over with.

There are also other internal factors that are affected by patience.  It strengthens your ability to be compassionate. Both self-compassion and compassion for others are built when you can step outside of your wants and see why patience is a virtue during times where it is required. Accept the fact that there are some things standing in your way that you can do nothing about. So, don’t beat yourself up because you don’t have a magic wand to remove it. In due time, with patience, you will be able to do something about it. Things get clearer over time, which helps you make better and wiser decisions.

The Holy Bible is a great treasure of wisdom when it comes to the virtue of patience. The Psalmist put it this way: Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices! Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.[1] And, of course, most of us know the refrain from Isaiah: They who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.[2]

The Apostle Paul was a great proponent for having patience. He tells us that if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.[3] That way, he says, we can rejoice in hope while we patiently endure tribulation by constantly staying in prayer.[4] And in addition to patience being a fruit of the spirit, Paul also says that we should not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap if we do not give up.[5] Don’t forget, Jacob could never have held the love of his life, Rachael if he had not been patient for fourteen years. And David would have never been the king after God’s own heart if he had patiently waited for seven years.

So, don’t get in a hurry to accomplish something that may take time. It is better to do it right and have it last than to do it hurriedly and have it fail early. If something you want to have, or if everything you want to do, or if anything you want to be may take a long time, be patient, put it in God’s hands, and say, “Lord, I’ll be ready when You are.” – Dr. Robert R Seyda

[1] Psalm 37:7-9

[2] Isaiah 40:31

[3] Romans 8:25

[4] Ibid. 12:12

[5] Galatians 6:9

About drbob76

Retired missionary, pastor, seminary professor, Board Certified Chaplain and American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Director.
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