Patience. It’s one of those things we all want and most of us don’t have.
All of us would have lots of patience if it weren’t for other people. At least that’s what we think in our minds. The people around us are driving us to impatience! So really it’s not our fault. It’s there’s.
As followers of Jesus, we should be the most patient people in the world. It is a fruit of the Spirit after all. To be impatient is to walk in our flesh, to walk inwardly focused. Jesus calls us to walk in the Spirit, and that tangibly looks like patience.
Being at home 24/7 with the same two people (whom I love, of course) has shown me how impatient of a person I am.
My patience seems to be on a razor’s edge all day long. It takes a lot to make me impatient, but once that happens my lack of patience grows exponentially. I was patient, until I wasn’t. I’m sure that no one else can relate.
Exercising patience is not only good for the people we’re around, but it’s good for ourselves too.
“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh…But the fruit of the Spirit is… patience.” (Galatians 5: 16-17,22)
To be a person of patience is a marker of a life lived in the Spirit rather than in the flesh.
So how do we become people who exercise patience on a regular basis?
One of the easiest ways to grow frustrated or irritated with someone is to not understand them. Our impatience often grows out of misunderstanding. It’s easier to remain patient when you can see where someone is coming from, when you can look at a situation through their lens.
Working full-time and having an 8 month old can be a real challenge sometimes. When Silas begins to whine for what seems like no reason at all, my patience up and vanishes. There’s something about a constant whine that isn’t quite a cry that has a way of getting to me. I’ve had to be really intentional about giving him my undivided attention to actually figure out what’s going on with him.
Usually his constant whine begins about 30 minutes before nap time. As an adult who doesn’t function well when I’m tired, I can certainly relate to his emotional state. I’ve really had to learn how to practice empathy as a mother. He doesn’t have the capacity or brain development to function like an adult and it’s unrealistic for me to expect him to, so I have to empathize with him.
There’s something about understanding where a person is coming from that makes it easier to remain patient with them. You can feel for them. You can relate to them. You can give them grace, instead of frustration.
Patience isn’t something that comes natural to us. We are self-centered people who long to satisfy our own desires. Impatience is birthed out of wanting others to meet our needs according to the way we want them met.
It really is an issue with us, rather than with the other person.
And sure, we can try and work on our patience. But usually that looks more like learning how to suppress your normal reaction. To truly exude patience takes dying to your own flesh. It takes a letting go of your desires in exchange for the good of others. That’s not something we can just work out in our hearts.
Patience takes the work of the Spirit to trade our fleshly desires for his good purposes.
We need the Holy Spirit to clean out our hearts and to make us more like Jesus. When you find yourself growing frustrated, pray. Really. Stop and pray for your heart and for your flesh to die in that moment. Pray for the Spirit to intervene and to change your heart towards that person or situation.
We must be people who live by the Spirit and not by the flesh. That means we need to rely on him to work in our hearts.
Have you ever noticed when you lack peace or joy that you tend to lash out at other people? When things aren’t going well internally, we have the tendency to let whatever is going on with us to spill over into our interactions with others.
Growing up, we were always living paycheck to paycheck, which made things really stressful. I always knew when my mom was going through our bills because she would be really impatient with us and snap easily. It would take something as minor as my brother and I not jumping up to clean our room the very second she asked us to do it.
But her issue wasn’t so much us, but rather the very difficult situation that she was trying to figure out how to solve. She was stressed about money and that caused her to be on edge the entire day or week.
If your patience is wearing thin, it would be a helpful exercise to take inventory of yourself for a moment. You might not be dealing with a huge life situation. But maybe it’s lack of sleep or something that has been really bothering you. These types of things tend to cause us to lose our patience when we normally wouldn’t or to become impatient over the smallest of things.
It’s important to be honest with yourself and to be aware of what is happening in your own heart.
There’s great wisdom in giving yourself some space from the person, or at least the people you continue to grow impatient with. When you take a moment to step away from a situation, you give yourself the opportunity to regain clarity.
One of the most immediate and practical things you can do when you find your patience wearing thin is to walk away for a second.
This might look like physically going on a walk or finding a way to step away from the situation. Just take a moment to breath, to pray, to even listen to a worship song. Not only do you need to step away, but you need to actively seek clarity and a calm spirit in that moment.
Living and working with other people can be hard. But that doesn’t give you a pass to be frustrated and impatient. When you feel irritation welling up within you, make a choice to step back and analyze the situation before you choose to respond out of your impatience.
5. Acts of Love
If you’re like me, your impatience with someone might not be isolated to a specific moment. Sometimes it builds up day after day or interaction after interaction.
As followers of Jesus, we want people to know us by our love. One way I’ve found to get out of the cycle of irritation or impatience with someone is to actively choose to love them.
I find small ways to show them I care about them and love them. Being intentional about your love for someone actually reiterates your love for them in your heart. It might start out as something you are doing to not murder them. But it will actually help soften your heart towards them.
We are far less irritated and impatient with people when all we can see is how much we love them.
Patience is a process.
Learning to be patient is a process that we’ll continue to grow into throughout the entirety of our lives. So be patient with yourself as you learn how to be patient with others. And know that God will always be patient with you as you learn to lean into more of who he is.