One of the great tragedies of life is unfulfilled potential. The world could have had, and should have had, many more police and pilots, engineers and entertainers, composers and chefs, doctors and diplomats, mechanics and masseurs, linguists and librarians, geologists and graphic artists, translators and therapists, nurses and navigators, welders and writers, as well as men and women working in many other occupations. Too often, what could have been, never came about. Although there are many reasons for this, one of the major causes of failure is the inability to persist in the face of seemingly insurmountable difficulties.
If only they had persevered. If only they had refused to give up. If only they had the self-discipline to forge on despite the obstacles that were strewn on the road to success. If only they had the PATIENCE to continue. As we begin a New Year, let’s not abandon our dreams and resolutions because of impatience. Rather, let’s have the clarity of mind to understand that it takes time for seeds to germinate, plants to grow, and crops to be harvested. Let’s also consider the words of Og Mandino (1923 ~ 1996):
“Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet. With patience you can bear up under any adversity and survive any defeat. With patience you can control your destiny and have what you will. Patience is the key to contentment, for you and for those who must live with you. To be brave without patience can kill you. To be ambitious without patience can destroy the most promising of careers. Patience is power. Employ it to stiffen your spirit, sweeten your temper, stifle your anger, bury your envy, subdue your pride, bridle your tongue, restrain your hands, and deliver you whole, in due time, to the life you deserve.”
Sometimes the words we use confuse and mislead us. For example, we talk about ‘LOSING patience’ or not being able to ‘FIND the patience’ to deal with a situation. Don’t get deceived into believing that patience can be lost or found. It is not a commodity. It is a decision. It is a decision to wait. It is a decision to hold on to our dream despite any delays we may have to put up with. Georges-Louis Leclerc Buffon (1707 ~ 1788) was a French Naturalist, so he understood that it takes time for nature to develop her plans. Armed with that insight, he offered this sound advice, “Never think that God’s delays are God’s denials. Hold on; Hold fast; Hold out. Patience is genius.”
Before we leave the subject of ‘holding on,’ I’d like to share this Pueblo Indian Prayer:
“Hold on to what is good,
Even if it’s a handful of earth.
Hold on to what you believe,
Even if it’s a tree that stands by itself.
Hold on to what you must do,
Even if it’s a long way from here.
Hold on to your life,
Even if it’s easier to let go.
Hold on to my hand,
Even if I’ve gone away from you.”
Patience is not only genius, it is power. Small tasks repeatedly done lead to major accomplishments. Consider the termites of Zambia, for instance. After eating sand, these insects patiently deposit it on the ground, climb onto the deposit and add another layer. Bit by bit, they add layers, until an ‘ant hill’ is formed that is up to twenty feet tall and fifty feet in diameter! Yet, the stunning achievements of African termites are dwarfed by the incredible potential that lives within YOU. No wonder the Greek Poet Hesiod (c. 700 BC) wrote, “If you should put even a little on a little and should do this often, soon this would become big.” Another way in which patience is power is in its ability to change the difficult into the easy. Any new task or responsibility is difficult at first. But if we patiently stick to it, it will become easy.
Besides considering what patience is, we should also reflect on what it is not. For example, patience is not despair, indifference, or procrastination. Rather, it is a temporary truce; it is a willingness to accept what cannot be changed NOW. While being patient, we do not remain idle. We change our tactics, look for other solutions, and relentlessly press on. We can never be sure which path will lead us to the goal we desire, so we patiently, persistently, and perseveringly keep trying until we meet with success. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1819 ~ 1892) shared his view on the same subject: “Every man must patiently bide his time. He must wait – not in listless idleness but in constant, steady, cheerful endeavors, always willing and fulfilling and accomplishing his task, that when the occasion comes he may be equal to the occasion.”
Lack of patience is not a malady. Because it is not an illness, it cannot be used as an excuse. Yet, some will say, “I can’t help it. I’m impatient. That’s just the way I am!” However, “That’s just the way I am!” really means, “That’s the way I choose to be.” Those who are egocentric, or think they are the center of the universe, make demands on others, and when their unreasonable demands are not met, they become frustrated, irritable, and upset. Such behaviour is not a formula for success. Impatience is a sign of immaturity, and to overcome it we need to start thinking of others and accept responsibility for our personal success.
Patience is a virtue and a key to success. But our patience must be measured and balanced. If it is taken to extremes, we may wait until it is too late. The success, which could have been ours, is lost because of delay. Look at how well this principle is described by the eighteenth century French priest Jacques Roux, “There is a slowness in affairs which ripens them, and a slowness which rots them.”
Part of the human experience is coping with illness. When it strikes, our natural reaction may be one of rebellion and rage. However, such feelings are self-destructive and only compound the problem. Trying to cope by gritting our teeth and bearing it isn’t much help either because that tactic is undermining. No, the only way to deal with suffering is with patience, for patience prepares us to move on. We willingly accept our lot because we realize it, too, will pass. And if it does not, we have the capacity to accommodate it. If we choose to, we can muster up sufficient strength to accept the challenge of the Greek philosopher, Epictetus (55 ~ 135 AD), who said, “Dare to look up to God and say, ‘Deal with me in the future as Thou wilt; I am of the same mind as Thou art; I am Thine; I refuse nothing that pleases Thee; lead me where Thou wilt; clothe me in any dress Thou choosest.'”
Thank you for patiently reading this. I wish you a Happy New Year and end with this quote from Adel Bestavros, “Patience with others is Love. Patience with self is Hope. Patience with God is Faith.”
Chuck Gallozzi lived, studied, and worked in Japan for 15 years, immersing himself in the wisdom of the Far East and graduating with B.A. and M.A. degrees in Asian Studies. He is a Certified NLP Practitioner, speaker, seminar leader, and coach. Corporations, church groups, teachers, counselors, and caregivers use his more than 400 articles as a resource to help others. Among his diverse accomplishments, he is also the Grand Prix Winner of a Ricoh International Photo Competition, the Canadian National Champion of a Toastmasters International Humorous Speech Contest, and the Founder and Head of the Positive Thinkers Group that has been meeting at St. Michael’s Hospital, Toronto since 1999. His articles are published in books, newsletters, magazines, and newspapers. He was interviewed on CBC’s “Steven and Chris Show,” appearing nationally on Canadian TV. Chuck can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. View his photography at https://500px.com/chuckgallozzi. This article cannot be re-published without permission.