Bridges to Love: Lessons in the Journey

Learn to Love by Cultivating Patience

Author: Rev. Russell Smith, Madeira-Silverwood

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” I Corinthians 13:4-7

“Love is patient”

Patience is in short supply in this accelerated age. Ours is an era of ceaseless urgency.

Urgency is kryptonite for patience. We both use urgency and are used by it.

Other people bombard us with urgent appeals for our attention, our time, our resources, our voice. They use urgency to goad us into action that we might not otherwise do.

Sometimes this urgency is a genuine call to action concerning an immediate need: The train is approaching; the grease in the pan has caught fire; there is a pedestrian crossing in front of you; the child is floundering in the pool.

However, more often, we encounter urgency in sales calls, political advertisements, fundraising campaigns, and general appeals for help. In its worst usage, urgency is a demand to let another person think for us, rather than giving us time and space to think for ourselves.

Now, flip that around. Have you ever used urgency to demand action from other people? Have you ever inflated the urgency of a situation to motivate them to do something you want them to do?

Patience, in contrast, is extending to others the space and permission to consider your call to action. The patient person knows how to communicate clearly about what they want. The patient person gives others time and space to ponder their response. And the patient person respects the other’s right to their own decisions.

It sounds simple.

Until the other person makes decisions that really make you mad or upset you. Or the other person doesn’t take the time to be thoughtful in their decision making process. Or the other person just behaves poorly and selfishly. Or the other person just bungles their response.

That’s when urgency might demand a more explosive response: angry recriminations, passive aggressive cutoff, urgent appeals to change their mind. Anything to communicate that they made the wrong choice and they need to change their mind.

But the patient response honors the other person – they are a free agent entitled to their own decisions. This doesn’t mean you have to affirm everything the other person does. You can certainly give honest feedback about disappointment. The key thing is that you don’t have to let your urgency own how you treat the other person.

When your urgency is your top priority, you use people as means to an end rather than honoring them as God’s divine Image bearers.

So how do we cultivate patience with other people and reign in your inner urgency?

First, practice clarity of communication. This requires that you slow down. Re-read your emails and texts a couple of times before sending them. Think through that important conversation you are about to have. Ask yourself a few questions:

* Are you clear on what you want to achieve in this communication?

* Do you know what you are asking of the other person?

* Are you stating things in as fair a way as possible?

* Are you giving a reasonable timeframe for response?

Second, manage your emotions of urgency. Many times our inner urgency comes from an inability to let things sit unresolved. The lack of resolution nags at our mind like a pebble in our shoe or an itch we just cant reach. This discomfort blossoms into a growing anxiety.

I find that a great way to manage challenging emotions like anxiety is to find a quiet place for a 15 minute conversation with God. In that conversation, I honestly describe the anxiety I’m feeling, and then I ask God to carry my anxiety. In asking God to do something, I might repeat certain scripture verses over in my mind:

* I Peter 5:7: “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”

* Matthew 6:33-34: “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

* Philippians 4:12-13 “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Third, respect the decisions of the other person. Simply put, no means no. Don’t try to shame, browbeat, or argue. Trust that God will stir in the right person’s heart to meet your identified need. Practice graciously receiving someone’s response to your request, even if that response is disappointing to you.