Lord, grant me patience, and do it NOW!
Patience is the ability to wait for the fruition of our goals. Or, as the ancient philosopher Epictetus is reported to have said nearly 2,000 years ago, “Nothing great is created suddenly, any more than a bunch of grapes or a fig. If you tell me that you desire a fig. I answer you that there must be time. Let it first blossom, then bear fruit, then ripen.” It takes time to do worthwhile things, so those who lack the patience to persist will fail to accomplish much. Do we want to develop as much of our potential as possible? If so, we’ll have to learn how to be patient.
Being patient doesn’t mean sitting around waiting for things to happen. Instead, it means to work as hard and as long as necessary, without giving up, until we reach our destination. The ancient Egyptians didn’t sit around waiting. They made plans, preparations, and worked on their project until the pyramids were completed. The pyramids, then, are monuments to patience. They are a reminder that if we persist in our personal projects while enduring the necessary wait, we will finally succeed. After getting their fill of mulberry leaves, silkworms make silk cocoons, which the Chinese and Japanese used to weave silk gowns and kimonos. That explains the Chinese proverb, “With time and patience the mulberry leaf becomes a silk gown.” Clearly, patience is power.
Patience is not only about enduring a long wait, it is also about enduring insults, provocation, and mistreatment without resentment, anger, or bitterness. Why put up with abuse? Because patience is also an expression of compassion. Because we are compassionate, we tolerate the faults of others. Because we are strong and they are weak, we accept their abuse with a smile and wish them well.
Buddhists commonly refer to patience as armor that protects the compassionate person from the barbs and verbal attacks of others. Interestingly, Leonardo Da Vinci had a similar idea, for he wrote, “Patience serves as a protection against wrongs as clothes do against cold. For if you put on more clothes as the cold increases, it will have no power to hurt you. So in like manner you must grow in patience when you meet with great wrongs, and they will be powerless to vex your mind.”
Almost all violence stems from anger, and patience often has the power to neutralize it. So, patience is a tool of the peacemaker. To eliminate possible misunderstanding, let me give one example of patiently accepting abuse and then contrast it with an example in which impatience is warranted.
In the first example, let’s say my supervisor at work always treats me condescendingly. Regardless how hard I work, he treats me without respect. Yet, I patiently bear his abuse. Why? Because I recognize he is a fellow human being. A human being with pain. Perhaps he feels threatened by my performance. Perhaps the source of his cruel remarks is fear. In other words, his abuse exposes him as the weakling he is. Instead of kicking a weak person by fighting back, shouldn’t I be compassionate? After all, if I bear my abuser’s cruelty with a smile, he may eventually learn that I am not a threat. If so, instead of upsetting him, I would have uplifted him. And by doing so, I would have made the world a better place.
However, at times, impatience is called for. For example, we must not tolerate child abuse or wife beating. Also, anything greater than zero tolerance of violence must not be permitted in our schools. Although abusers are sick and in need of help, our compassion is first directed toward their victims, who are in immediate need of help. After the victims are rescued, we can try to rehabilitate the abuser.
A society based on consumerism boosts profits by preaching the doctrine of impatience. “Don’t wait; act now! Don’t wait until you can afford it; buy it now with a credit card! Why prepare for your future by working hard for many years when you can strike it rich NOW by winning the lottery or a casino jackpot?” Patience is out the window and instant gratification is banging on our door. When we abandon patience, we abandon self-discipline. A world without either is a world without Mozart, Thomas Edison, or Tiger Woods. It is also a world without Olympic Gold Medal winners, astronauts, professors, corner pharmacists, auto mechanics and countless other members of industry, trade, and the arts. Can you think of anything worthwhile that can be achieved without giving up immediate gratification for long-term gain?
In a single day we can be faced with countless irritations: someone tailgates you on your way to work; someone cuts in front of you while you’re waiting in line at the post office; coworkers chat and laugh loudly in the next cubicle while you’re conducting a business phone call; you’re going out with friends tonight, but they show up an hour late, or you’re cooking dinner when you’re suddenly interrupted by a telemarketer. I’m sure you can think of many other examples. So, what do we do when we encounter an endless stream of minor irritants? Well, we can choose to become upset or we can choose to follow the example of oysters. They use an irritating grain of sand to create a glittering pearl. We can use our irritating experiences to create pearls of forgiveness, pearls of compassion, and pearls of understanding.
Learning to accept minor irritations prepares us to endure major ones. Those who lack patience find minor irritations or suffering unbearable. However, those who have mastered patience find great suffering tolerable. Patience has great impact on our happiness, for how can those who are upset and constantly complain be happy? Those who are always angry withdraw from the world; they curse the world. But those who are patient are peacemakers who embrace the world, bless it, and thank it for the opportunity to create pearls.
How can we expect to have others accept our weaknesses unless we are willing to accept theirs? Patience, then, is about respect for others. It is when we interact with others that we come to understand ourselves. For when we act with patience and understanding, that’s what we become. And when we act with impatience and anger, that’s what we are.
How can we commit to a relationship unless we have patience? Patience binds, heals, and supports relationships. Impatience is divisive. It severs friendships, dissolves marriages, breaks up families, and breaks hearts. So, patience is also about maturity. Patient people do not throw away pets and possessions or relationships and responsibilities simply because things aren’t working out as originally expected. Patient people bring out the best in them. Impatient people bring out the beast in them.
You say you’re not as patient as you would like to be? Not to worry, just be patient, for patience comes to those who wait. Aren’t all things difficult before they become easy? My final words on patience are taken from the eighteenth-century French naturalist, Georges-Louis Leclerc Buffon (1707-1788), “The ability to accept delay. Or disappointment. To smile at setbacks and respond with a pleasant, understanding spirit. To remain calm while others around are uneasy. This is Godly patience. Never think that God’s delays are God’s denials. Hold on; Hold fast; Hold out. Patience is genius.”
Enthusiasm: Source of Boundless Energy
The word ‘enthusiasm’ comes from Greek and means God within (entheos). It refers to a divine spark or fire that burns within the breast of those with a passion for a cause, job, or life in general. “Enthusiasm,” according to Henry Ford, “is the yeast that makes your hopes shine to the stars. Enthusiasm is the sparkle in your eyes, the swing in your gait. The grip of your hand, the irresistible surge of will and energy to execute your ideas.” Enthusiasm is all that and a lot more. Years may wrinkle the skin, but the absence of enthusiasm wrinkles the soul. For this reason, Malcolm S. Forbes said, “People who never get carried away should be!”
Did you ever return from a hard day of work completely drained? You plop down in a chair exhausted. After hearing a ring, you get up and struggle to the phone. Your friend is on the line, enthusiastically describing a party taking place at his home. “Come on over,” he says. You know what happens next . . . Suddenly you find yourself filled with energy and on your way to the party. That is an example of the power of enthusiasm. It is a source of boundless energy. The trick is to expand your passion to include your job, family, and all that life encompasses. Once you do so, you’ll never be tired again.
Enthusiasm will not only make you more productive, but it will lighten burdens and make obstacles easier to overcome. You will have the energy to succeed. It will also make you happier, for as Charles Kingsley wrote, “We act as though comfort and luxury were the chief goals of life, when all that we need to make us happy is something to be enthusiastic about.”
Enthusiasm is contagious, but so is the lack of it. Look about. Are your companions moping around with glazed eyes? If so, maybe it’s because of you! Turn on your mental ignition; get excited, and you will find that your enthusiasm will spark theirs. When you are enthusiastic in the workplace, you inspire others and gain their cooperation.
How do we cultivate enthusiasm? Begin by being aware. Wake up and appreciate all that you have. What about your beautiful home? I’m not speaking about the apartment or house that you live in, but the universe. We are on a small planet, circling a minor star, which is at the edge of one of a hundred thousand million galaxies. Vast as the universe is, we can contain it within our mind! How incredible we are! Like the universe, we have unlimited potential! Isn’t that something to be excited about? Enthusiasm can be an expression of the joy of existence.
What about your job? You won’t be enthusiastic about it unless you love what you do. If you were unable to find a job that you are passionate about, make the best of the situation. Look for the good and the potential of your present job. Also, make a plan and take action that will lead you to the job of your dreams. It may be a long struggle before you get there, but like climbing Mount Everest, you will find the journey exhilarating.
Don’t waste time by hanging out with negative people. Stick with a circle of enthusiastic and optimistic friends. If you need more acquaintances, consider joining a club such as the Optimist Club or Toastmasters, for their members are usually enthusiastic.
We live in the largest room in the world. The room for improvement! The fact that we can improve ourselves is exciting. A sure way to inject some enthusiasm into your life is to take some adult education courses, read some good books, learn the martial arts, how to dance, or anything else. Embrace life and light the torch of others with your own enthusiasm.
Another helpful act is to keep a Gratitude Journal. Keep a diary or journal, and at the end of each day list at least five things that you are grateful for. This will help you focus on the positive and appreciate life. When done every day, Gratitude Journals can transform lives.
Finally, let’s remember the words of H.W. Arnold: “The worst bankruptcy in the world is the person who has lost his enthusiasm.”
If you expect nothing, you’ll get nothing
On Oct 6, 1727, 39-year-old Alexander Pope wrote in a letter to John Gay, “Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.” Expecting nothing is one way of avoiding disappointment. But what a heavy price to pay, for when we expect nothing, we get nothing. Imagine a honeybee staying away from flowers to avoid the possible disappointment of encountering nectarless blossoms. The bee’s actions would prevent it from enjoying the ambrosia of life.
Just as the world gladly provides nectar to bees, it provides the vast riches of beauty, joy, meaning, and opportunity to those who have the right attitude. Those who expect good, look for good. And those who look for good, find it. But those who expect trouble, look for it and find it. And the good or unhappiness we find will be in direct proportion to our expectation. That’s why Ben Sweetland wrote, “The world is full of abundance and opportunity, but far too many people come to the fountain of life with a sieve instead of a tank car… a teaspoon instead of a steam shovel. They expect little and as a result they get little.”
So, the first lesson about expectations is to expect much and look for much. For when we do so, we shall discover our cups runneth over. Don’t expect problems, but expect solutions to every problem. Don’t expect difficulties, but expect to grow stronger with every difficulty you overcome. Don’t expect hard times, but expect every need to be met, for it is in expecting that we look, and in searching that we find.
Some people read their horoscope or consult an oracle with the hope of learning what to expect in the future. We don’t need a horoscope or oracle to know what to expect. All we need is some commonsense. If I enroll in a course, study hard, and do my assignments, I will pass the course. If I skip classes, don’t study, and don’t do my assignments, I will fail the course. Simple wasn’t it? Why would I need a horoscope or oracle to learn what to expect in the future. Each act I take, or fail to take, creates my future. What can I expect from the future? I can expect to reap the rewards for my right actions and suffer the consequences for my wrong actions!
The second lesson on expectations, then, is to remain aware of our actions. And to take actions that lead to bright expectations while avoiding actions that lead to undesirable expectations.
Will everything I work toward come about? Who knows? I can have positive expectations, but I cannot have full knowledge of what the future will bring. Why would I want to know the future? It’s supposed to be a surprise. Life is a party and the future is a present we receive. We open the present with anticipation, not knowing what we will receive. As Denis Waitley says, “Expect the best, plan for the worst, and prepare to be surprised.”
During the time you’ve been reading this article, the world has changed. Change is the stuff the world is made of. What can you expect in the future? Change! If you’re suffering now, cheer up, for life will change for the better. If you’re sitting on top of the world, get ready for a change of fortune. But don’t worry, you’ll be able to cope and learn from the experience.
How can I enjoy today’s good if I expect better tomorrow? Some people make the mistake of living in the future, looking forward to all their expectations. As they do so, they overlook the treasures of today. We only live in the present. The past is dead, the future is but a dream. So enjoy what you have today, and put off tomorrow until tomorrow.
Although I used Alexander Pope’s quotation in my opening to show that if we expect nothing, we will receive nothing, there is another interpretation. And that is, if we release our expectations for tomorrow, we focus on today. In fact, considering his keen insight, I’m sure that’s what he meant. No doubt he would have agreed with the contemporary genius Stephen Hawking, who wrote, “When one’s expectations are reduced to zero, one really appreciates everything one does have.” So it’s all a matter of balance. We want to have expectations, but we don’t want to dwell on them to the point that we ignore the present moment.
Some make the mistake about expecting a future calamity. For if it comes, they suffer twice. Once, worrying about it before it arrives, and second, they suffer after its arrival. And what if it doesn’t come? All of their worrying needlessly robbed them of their peace of mind. Besides, don’t we have enough to be concerned about for today? Why pile on top of that possible problems of tomorrow? No wonder some people cannot cope!
Expectations are the bars we reach for, the goals we chase after. They can challenge, strengthen, and lift us. By setting high expectations, parents, teachers, and supervisors can play an important part in helping those they look after rise to new levels of achievement. After all, rarely do followers exceed the expectations of their leaders. But care must be taken to inspire and encourage, while avoiding pressure. As in other cases, balance is necessary. That is, while setting expectations for them, you must also teach those you look after to ignore the expectations of others and set their own! In other words, the greatest gift you can offer them is to awaken their own expectations. Share with them the words of Tiger Woods: “One of the things that my parents have taught me is never listen to other people’s expectations. You should live your own life and live up to your own expectations, and those are the only things I really care about it.” Stevie Wonder shares the same idea: “You can’t base your life on other people’s expectations.”
When setting expectations for ourselves, we should make sure they’re realistic. Going to medical school or becoming a Jesuit priest (which takes 13 years) may be reasonable expectations, but if I’m already 102 years old, they’re not realistic goals. Also, persistence has to be tempered with commonsense. Every time I ask Mary for a date she says, “No, Chucky, you’re too yucky!” Don’t you think that after a certain number of rejections my expectation becomes unrealistic? When we set a goal and fail to reach it, we can try again by following another path. It doesn’t make sense to repeat the same mistake over and over again. And since the future is uncertain, who knows, my expectation may be impossible to achieve. Therefore, it may make sense to have a backup plan ready, just in case. Persistence, relentless determination, unwavering focus, and flexibility. We need them all. It’s a matter of balance and knowing when to use the proper tool.
Pardon me if I stop writing now. I’d like to get back to enjoying the fruit of yesterday’s expectations. Here’s hoping you have the opportunity to do the same.
Doing the Remarkable
When it comes to meeting and conquering the negativity in your life, here is a key question: what can you do, starting today, that will make a difference? What can you do during economic chaos? What can you do when everything has gone wrong? What can you do when you’ve run out of money, when you don’t feel well and it’s all gone sour? What can you do?
Let me give you the broad answer first. You can do the most remarkable things, no matter what happens. People can do incredible things, unbelievable things, despite the most impossible or disastrous circumstances.
Here is why humans can do remarkable things: because they are remarkable. Humans are different than any other creation. When a dog starts with weeds, he winds up with weeds. And the reason is because he’s a dog. But that’s not true with human beings. Humans can turn weeds into gardens.
Humans can turn nothing into something, pennies into fortune, and disaster into success. And the reason they can do such remarkable things is because they are remarkable. Try reaching down inside of yourself; you’ll come up with some more of those remarkable human gifts. They’re there, waiting to be discovered and employed.
With those gifts, you can change anything for yourself that you wish to change. And I challenge you to do that because you can change. If you don’t like how something is going for you, change it. If something isn’t enough, change it. If something doesn’t suit you; change it. If something doesn’t please you, change it. You don’t ever have to be the same after today. If you don’t like your present address change it — you’re not a tree!
If there is one thing to get excited about, it’s your ability to make yourself do the necessary things, to get a desired result, to turn the negative into success. That’s true excitement.
A man found a cocoon for a butterfly. One day a small opening appeared, he sat and watched the butterfly for several hours as it struggled to force its body through the little hole.
Then it seemed to stop making any progress. It appeared as if it had gotten as far as it could and could go no farther. Then the man decided to help the butterfly.
He took a pair of scissors and snipped the remaining bit of the cocoon. The butterfly then emerged easily.
Something was strange. The butterfly had a swollen body and shriveled wings. The man continued to watch the butterfly because he expected at any moment, the wings would enlarge and expand to be able to support the body, which would contract in time.
Neither happened. In fact, the butterfly spent the rest of its life crawling around with a swollen body and deformed wings. It was never able to fly.
What the man in his kindness and haste did not understand was that the restricting cocoon and the struggle required for the butterfly to get through the small opening of the cocoon are God’s way of forcing fluid from the body of the butterfly into its wings so that it would be ready for flight once it achieved its freedom from the cocoon.
Sometimes struggles are exactly what we need in our life.
If God allowed us to go through all our life without any obstacles, that would cripple us. We would not be as strong as what we could have been.
Not only that, we could never fly.
A Little Black Pen