Ask any person which quality they would like to have best in their lives and you’ll probably get a host of answers like love, joy, compassion, courage or determination. Likely though, patience will not be one of them. Patience is like the black sheep in the family of divine qualities. It is arguably the most undervalued and underestimated virtue of all. But if we truly knew the value and meaning of patience, we would rate it a lot higher. And perhaps even put it at the very top of our list. Here are three common misconceptions about patience.
Misconception#1: Patience is weakness
Truth: Patience is the road to success
We often associate patience with a state of helplessness or weakness. When people are not acting in the way we expect them to, we are told to be patient with them. Or if our desires are not fulfilled, we are forced into patience. We feel patience is something that is thrust upon us, making us a weak and helpless victim of time.
But go and ask highly successful people about the meaning of patience in their lives and you’ll probably get a whole different answer. They’ll tell you patience is the key. Success is not like instant coffee. It is often the work of a lifetime (or lifetimes, if you – like me – believe in reincarnation), the result of constant self-giving effort.
Misconception: Patience is stagnant pool
Truth: patience is a flowing river
In the beginning of my spiritual life I suffered from the rookie’s disease to crave for instant enlightenment. I simply couldn’t wait to have all those wonderful qualities I read about in spiritual literature: peace, bliss, unbounded love, inner strength – and I wanted them now! Tough luck for me. It turned out it wasn’t going to be the walk in the park I was hoping for.
To our minds patience equals waiting, the most boring activity on earth. When we are fired with eagerness to have something, but then learn that we can’t have it right now, but only at some future time – in other words, that we have to be patient – we sink into a deep pit of frustration. No wonder we loathe patience!
Then I learned that in the spiritual life every day – even every hour, minute and second – can be a divinely inspired opportunity to grow and make progress. The journey itself becomes the destination. I learned that patience is not static but dynamic, like a flowing river taking me slowly and steadily towards the goal.
A farmer sows a seed in spring, but he doesn’t run out to see the result the very next week. He knows he will have to wait until harvest time comes around in the fall. In the meantime he’s not sitting still; he works his fields every day to keep the ground fertile. For the farmer patience is definitely not static, but utterly dynamic.
So instead of thinking of patience as lost waiting time, think of it as an opportunity to work on the things that need your immediate attention. Don’t even call it patience! Call it being in the moment and following the flow. Then patience actually becomes the boat in which you sail on the ever-flowing river of time. It not only loses its foul taste, but actually becomes something highly enjoyable.
Is the hour of patience.
Is the power of patience.
Misconception: patience is an excuse not to try our best
Truth: patience conquers our negative qualities
When striving for a big goal, like writing a book, organizing a big event or – the goal of goals – spiritual enlightenment, we sometimes cleverly use patience as an excuse not to do our very best. We feel that since the goal is so high, so lofty, we can relax and enjoy ourselves in the name of patience, in the hope that the goal will one day knock at our door. Unfortunately – or perhaps fortunately – it doesn’t work like that.
Here we are confusing patience with lack of eagerness and intensity, which are needed to achieve our goals. Patience will never say that we don’t have to work hard. We’ll work hard, but at the same time we must know that there is something called God’s choice Hour, the divinely chosen time for us to reach the goal. So patience goes hand in hand with surrender – the conscious acceptance of the divine Will and the divine Time.
If we use patience in the right way it can conquer our negative qualities. When we are attacked by fear, doubt, insecurity or any other negative quality, we can exercise the strength of our patience to ward off the attack. When a doubting thought comes, just reject it and tell yourself “No, I am all faith, all belief.” When fear comes, reject the fear-impulse and say to yourself, “I am one with the entire universe; I am vastness itself; I am the soul.”
By patiently refusing negative qualities from entering into us, a time will come when they will no longer bother us. Negative qualities don’t have any patience at all. They will feel that it is a waste of their time to bother us, and eventually they’ll leave us alone.
Patience, increasing patience,
Is all we need
To be victorious
In the battlefield of life.