The Fortitudinous Man is Patient

A Man climbing up a wall


In a technological world of instant gratification, it has become very difficult to be patient for anything to come full circle, whether it’s personal goals or products arriving in the mail.  The patient man or woman is usually a simple man or woman with the ability to understand the beauty of the process; not just the outcome. 

I am not patient.

It doesn’t matter what we’re talking about, but there’s a good chance I don’t have the patience for it.  I like things to be completed so I can sit in my easy chair and enjoy the fact that something has been accomplished, such as a house project or cleaning the kitchen after dinner.  In fact, I look forward to sitting down so much that the process of completing a goal is not only stressful for me, but for my entire family.  The thing is, it is in the moments of doing things that we are with our family, and those are the moments especially important to teaching our children.  If we just want to blow by those moments, or if we treat them like a burden to be lifted, we miss an opportunity.

I know firsthand that a lack of patience can unquestionably contribute to a poor quality of life.  I’ll give you a recent example.  My beautiful wife and I purchased a new home a couple of months ago.  Like any new home, there will be renovations to make and landscaping to alter to our liking.  Now, the patient person will assess each project individually and probably find enjoyment in working on and eventually completing each one.  Not me.  I look at the whole picture without condensing it into separate projects, and I am immediately overwhelmed with the amount of work it is going to take to complete everything.  I see the trees we want cut down, the walls we want removed, the new colors for the outside of the house, the new carpet in the downstairs, the multiple rooms we want to convert to bedrooms, the grass we want to plant, the fence we want put up, the outdoor furniture and plants we want on the patio, and the trail I want to build through the woods; and I want it all done now.

I become disgruntled.  I don’t want to deal with it.  What do I do?

I go outside, grab the chainsaw, and start the process of clearing the trees we have already felled.  That lasts for about ten minutes until my wife comes out and reminds me she’s doing the shopping today.  OK.  Fine.  No big deal.  She leaves, I bring the kids outside to “help”, and it all goes down hill from there.  It’s too hot out for the younger two kids, or the eldest wants to do everything himself (which takes forever), or the middle child has chosen today to not listen to a word I say, or they are fighting over who gets to use the big clippers, and so on.  Progress is not being made, so I can give up or put them in front of the TV and overwork myself to try and get things done in half the time.  No one has fun.  No one enjoys the process.  Why?  Because I hate the process and all I can see is the finish line. 

The problem with this is I miss all the good stuff.  I miss the opportunity to help my children grow and learn.  I miss the enjoyment of the raw innocence of my children and laughing with them when we screw something up.  I miss their smiles and sometimes the jokes they crack because I’m in a hurry to get it all done.  My wife gets home, and I’m miserable and exhausted from doing, well, nothing. I, by choice, have degraded my quality of life and the quality of life of those around me by being impatient.

I’m the same way with the cleanliness of the house:  the laundry piles up on the floor, the kids don’t pick up after themselves, my wife hasn’t had time to clean the kitchen, and the school room is a mess because the young one dumped out the puzzles.  Again.  I run around the house like a tornado picking things up after a long day of work, huffing and puffing loud enough to make sure my wife hears me.  I do this often, and it drives my wife crazy since she now feels inadequate because the house isn’t clean and organized according to my standards.  We talk about it often, but I usually revert to the same routine.  And the result?  I exhaust myself running around the house, make my wife feel like junk, and then don’t want to spend necessary time with the kids reading scripture or playing games at the end of the day.

All of this changed a bit when my wife and I were discussing this very situation a couple of months ago.  Although we usually end the “discussion” with “we both need to get better,” my wife approached it differently this time.  She explained to me that organizing and cleaning the house simply isn’t on top of the priority list.  Do what?!  Yes, it’s important; but as a homeschooling mother there are many other things that trump the cleaning.  She continued to tell me her priorities: spending extra time with the kids to make sure they actually understand their lessons, making sure that the eldest practices his violin, keeping their hair cut and her children well cleaned and groomed, spending time outside with the children, coordinating events and lessons at our church’s co-op school, and giving the kids chores to complete even when the end result is not spectacular.  She is busy being a mother, and she has made that her priority.  I can start to see the beauty of the process through her eyes, and how wonderful it can be when one of the children do something very well that she had the patience to wait for.  She’s an amazing mother, and she’s helped me over the past several months to become an even better father.

I am slowly learning to relax and enjoy every moment possible with my children, for one day they will be gone.  I will sit at home on my deck, looking at my perfectly manicured lawn coupled with the gorgeous landscaping, and realize how many opportunities I missed with my children to be a father.  And for what?  For nothing.  If you have children, you should allow for things to not go as planned.  If the house isn’t clean or you haven’t had a chance to build shelves for your workshop in the basement, you need to get over it.  It’s not easy, and as parents you rarely get to do things you want to do; but that’s kind of what we signed up for as parents.  Enjoy it before it’s gone, and don’t stress about the things you can’t get to; it will all still be there waiting for you.  Don’t live your life in a constant state of stress like I use to.  Choose wisely.  Persevere in hardship; or, be patient for the outcome even when things are not going the way you want them to.

From the spiritual classic Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales, part 3 ch. 3:

Be patient, not only with respect to the main trials which beset you, but also under the accidental and accessory annoyances which arise out of them. We often find people who imagine themselves ready to accept a trial in itself who are impatient of its consequences. We hear one man say, “I should not mind poverty, were it not that I am unable to bring up my children and receive my friends as handsomely as I desire.” And another says, “I should not mind, were it not that the world will suppose it is my own fault;” while another would patiently bear to be the subject of slander provided nobody believed it. Others, again, accept one side of a trouble but fret against the rest–as, for instance, believing themselves to be patient under sickness, only fretting against their inability to obtain the best advice, or at the inconvenience they are to their friends. But, dear child, be sure that we must patiently accept, not sickness only, but such sickness as God chooses to send, in the place, among the people, and subject to the circumstances which He ordains;–and so with all other troubles. If any trouble comes upon you, use the remedies with which God supplies you. Not to do this is to tempt Him; but having done so, wait whatever result He wills with perfect resignation. If He pleases to let the evil be remedied, thank Him humbly; but if it be His will that the evil grow greater than the remedies, patiently bless His Holy Name.

Complain as little as possible of your wrongs, for as a general rule you may be sure that complaining is sin;the rather that self-love always magnifies our injuries: above all, do not complain to people who are easily angered and excited. If it is needful to complain to some one, either as seeking a remedy for your injury, or in order to soothe your mind, let it be to some calm, gentle spirit, greatly filled with the Love of God; for otherwise, instead of relieving your heart, your confidants will only provoke it to still greater disturbance; instead of taking out the thorn which pricks you, they will drive it further into your foot.

Bear in mind that the bee while making its honey lives upon a bitter food: and in like manner we can never make acts of gentleness and patience, or gather the honey of the truest virtues, better than while eating the bread of bitterness, and enduring hardness. And just as the best honey is that made from thyme, a small and bitter herb, so that virtue which is practised amid bitterness and lowly sorrow is the best of all virtues.

Gaze often inwardly upon Jesus Christ crucified, naked, blasphemed, falsely accused, forsaken, overwhelmed with every possible grief and sorrow, and remember that none of your sufferings can ever be compared to His, either in kind or degree, and that you can never suffer anything for Him worthy to be weighed against what He has borne for you.

Consider the pains which martyrs have endured, and think how even now many people are bearing afflictions beyond all measure greater than yours, and say, “Of a truth my trouble is comfort, my torments are but roses as compared to those whose life is a continual death, without solace, or aid or consolation, borne down with a weight of grief tenfold greater than mine.”

And from the Catechism:

736 By this power of the Spirit, God’s children can bear much fruit. He who has grafted us onto the true vine will make us bear “the fruit of the Spirit: . . . love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” “We live by the Spirit”; the more we renounce ourselves, the more we “walk by the Spirit.”

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