Relationships can be messy, difficult and yet incredibly rewarding.
There are many things that go into a healthy, vibrant relationship like marriage. But I believe there is one vital ingredient to a long-lasting, healthy relationship: Patience.
In Galatians 5:22 – as part of the fruit of the Spirit we find patience: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law”.
Then in 1 Corinthians 13:4 – “Love is patient…” The author Paul is talking about the true meaning of loving someone well and he starts with patience. In Galatians he is talking about evidence in our lives that we are growing spiritually, and right in the middle is patience.
So let’s take a closer look at patience:
Patience is the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble or suffering, without getting angry or upset.
Wow, that is impossible, but incredibly powerful. Imagine if you could do that on a consistent basis. Your life would be less stressful, you would be healthier and your influence with other people would go up. So how do you do that?
- Remind yourself that things take time. People who are impatient are people who insist on getting things done now and don’t like to waste time. However, some things just can’t be rushed. You have very little control over much in life. You can choose to be patient though.
- Think about your happiest memories. Chances are, they were instances when your patience paid off, like when you worked steadily toward a goal that wasn’t immediately gratifying, or took a little extra time to spend leisurely with a loved one. Would you have those memories if you had been impatient? Probably not. Good things may not always come to those who wait, but most good things that do come don’t happen right away.
- Remember what matters. Not focusing on what matters most in this life fuels impatience. Being kind, generous in forgiveness of others, being grateful for what is, and taking full advantage of what matters most helps you to be more patient. In other words don’t sweat the small stuff.
- Work on having a positive outlook in life – Being positive is imperative to possessing a sense of patience. Believing the best about a person helps you be more patient and loving. Remember that relationships are not a race, but a journey to be savored each step of the way. If your naturally negative it will take more work to be patient, but it can change your life.
- Expect the unexpected. Yes, you have plans, but things don’t always work out as planned. Accept the twist and turns in life gracefully. Keep your expectations realistic. This applies not only to circumstances, but also the behavior of those around you.
- Stop holding yourself and the world around you to unattainable standards. Sure, we’d all be more patient if he would always listen, she would stop complaining, traffic flowed smoothly, and people didn’t make stupid decisions – but that’s never going to happen. Expecting the world to run smoothly is like beating your head against the wall. Give yourself and others a break!
The Benefits of Developing Patience
- Reduces stress levels and makes you a happier, healthier person. When you learn and practice patience you don’t get as stressed or overwhelmed. You are more in control of your emotions and in a better position to deal with difficult situations with ease and poise.
- Results in better decision-making When you’re patient you take the time to assess the situation, see the big picture, and weigh any pros and cons. The chances of making a big mistake lessen because you avoid making it in haste. Taking the time to problem solve and work out our conflicts requires patience and deliberation.
- Helps develop understanding, empathy and compassion. You are automatically more understanding and compassionate with others when you yourself are patient. Patient people take the time to process what they go through and are able to determine what it takes to overcome obstacles so they are more understanding of others. This results in better, more fulfilling relationships with spouses, friends, children and bosses.
- Helps you understand and appreciate the process of growth. As mentioned earlier anything worthwhile takes time and effort to achieve. Planning, growth, evaluation and measurement all take time, and taking time takes patience. Just like a gardener has to be patient for things in the garden to grow, so we need to be patient with the people around us.
Tips on How to Develop Patience
- Take a day where you make patience your goal for the entire day. Make a concerted effort to take your time and think about everything you do, be mindful and live in the moment. At the end of the day, observe all the ways in which you’ve made smarter decisions, got along better with others and actually understood what took place. Learn to do it on a daily basis. Developing patience is much like physical exercise because it requires persistence and effort.
- Slow down. If you have the tendency to rush around and try to hurry things up, want things done immediately and can’t wait for things to take their natural course, STOP. Take several deep breaths before you act or make a move. For example, if you’re in a long lineup at the grocery store or in heavy traffic, make the decision to pause and not get worked up. Talk to God, listen to the radio, or just enjoy the view. Getting impatient won’t make things move along any faster, so why get worked up for nothing?
- Practice delaying gratification. Instead of escaping to your familiar thing like watching TV, working out, reading, shopping, drinking or eating, work on the real issues and resolve conflict first.
- Practice thinking before you speak. At times we blurt out the first thought that comes into our heads without considering the consequences. If we’re patient, pause and go over what we want to say, we can avoid hurting or offending others.
None of this is possible on a consistent basis without including God. On our own we will fall short every time, yet we can plug into the power of God. So in those moments when you do not want to be patient, a quick prayer asking for help can change everything.
One last thing, when someone is mistreating you or abusing you, patience should only apply with how you respond. Not responding in a way that fuels the fire. You should never simply take abuse. Setting boundaries and consequences is important in those situations. If your in an abusive relationship go get help and set clear boundaries.