the first characteristic of love that st. paul lists in the thirteenth chapter of first corinthians is patience. there's a lot to be said for and about patience and why it should be listed first in such a list, even before kindness. I find as I think about life--the life I've lived and the continuation of that life--one thing I possess in greater quantity now than I did when I was younger is this very quality: patience. I hope that means I am more loving. I find that I'm not in such a hurry as i was even a few years ago. i don't have to get from point a to point b as quickly as possible, i can take my time getting there. queues are a welcome occurrence, they give me time to stop and notice and to think. people don't have to conform to my expectations, i am more apt to accept them as they are rather than as I want them to be.
all that is not to say that i never become impatient. deadlines make me anxious. i want to get places early so i don't have to worry about being late, and in doing so i cause stress for others who are with me. minor frustrations are often built up into something much larger than they ought to be, i become impatient with petty annoyances that shouldn't annoy me at all. the difference now is that i can stop myself and realize that the emotion i'm feeling for what it is: lack of patience. once I realize the irritation has to do more with my expectation that life should conform to my preconceived notions rather than just being life, I can let go of the impatience.
how often do our unrealistic ideas about how things should be cause suffering for ourselves and those around us? if i must wait a few extra moments because a companion is not quite ready to leave for an appointment, there's no reason to become impatient; it won't matter that much if we arrive two minutes early rather than ten minutes early. it probably won't be a big deal if we walk in five minutes late! if another talks on and on about some personal matter when all i want to do is get on with my business, most of the time it does me no harm to listen with attention to what that other is saying and let my needs wait a bit. if the fast food place mixes up my take out order and i don't discover it until i get home, it's not that big a deal that my fries got left off, I can easily pick up the phone and explain my problem and receive an accommodation or just let go of my craving for something that's not very good for me anyhow. what's the loss of an order of fries in the big scheme of things?
love can't be kind without being patient. the two go hand-in-hand. may we examine our impatience, our desire to have life conform to our ideal. may we come to realize that by being impatient we double the suffering. may we see the petty and not-so-petty irritations of life as opportunities to develop a quality all of us could use more of. shalom.