Charlie's Blog: The Discipline of Patience


The Discipline of Patience

The man who knows how to be strong will not be in a hurry to receive the reward of his virtue. He is patient. Indeed it is fortitude that teaches us to appreciate the human and divine virtue of patience. '“By your patience you will gain possession of your souls." (Luke 21:19) The possession of the soul is attributed to patience, which in effect is the root and guardian of all the virtues. We secure possession of our souls through patience, for, by learning to have dominion over ourselves, we begin to possess that which we are.' And it is this very patience that moves us to be understanding with others, for we are convinced that souls, like good wine, improve with time.

We have to be strong and patient and, therefore, calm and composed, but not with the composure of the man who buys his own tranquility at the expense of ignoring his brothers or neglecting the great task (which falls to us all) of tirelessly spreading good throughout the world. We can keep calm because there is always forgiveness and because there is a solution for everything, except death; and for the children of God, death is life. We must try to keep our peace, even if only so as to act intelligently, since the man who remains calm is able to think, to study the pros and cons, to examine judiciously the outcome of the actions he is about to undertake. He then plays his part calmly and decisively.

The dictionary defines patience as "the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset." For most people, patience is the ability to wait for something, but this is imprecise. Patience is the ability to wait or strive for something without losing your cool. Everyone waits. Waiting is a part of life that no one can escape. Patience has to do with our attitude during those periods of waiting. Very many may do the former, but they fail miserably on the latter. I know because I am one of those failures.

When things don't go our way, the first impulse is anger followed by the second impulse which is vengeance. Anger can go down two paths. It can be constructive, or it can be destructive. Constructive anger is righteous anger while destructive anger is sinful anger. Anger is a logical and rational reaction to injustice. Anger becomes irrational when it seeks revenge. The Lord has said that vengeance belongs to Him, and we should not take that role upon ourselves. I have to remind myself of this every time I want to punch someone in the face repeatedly. Patience is tied completely to this expectation that God will punish wrongdoers in His time. Hell exists, and it should make us stop and reflect on the fate of evildoers. The worst we could ever do to someone is insignificant in comparison to Hell. When I think of Hell, I actually start to feel sorry for the people that wrong me. I also tremble as I consider all the wrong I have done in my life. May God have mercy on me.

I want to be patient in my life. I want to stop having my fits of rage. So many times, I become as bad or worse than those who wrong me. I must remember the example of St. Francis de Sales who struggled mightily to overcome his temper such that he became famous for his patience. De Sales wrote, "Have patience with all things, but chiefly have patience with yourself. Do not lose courage in considering your own imperfections, but instantly set about remedying them - every day begin the task anew." This saint was admirable in so many ways, and his words on anger and patience are a salve to an embittered soul.

My life is full of people who try my patience, but I have to see them as people who train my soul. As St. Josemaria Escriva wrote, "Don't say: 'That person gets on my nerves.' Think: 'That person sanctifies me.'" There are many who sanctify me. I have gotten better at the outward display of anger, but I have yet to get to the root of the rage in my heart. I want to be patient. I want to love patience instead of revenge. Patience is gold. Revenge is garbage. My heart is more garbage than gold.

I want to be calm and gentle like St. Francis de Sales. I want to not let things ruffle me or filch my tranquility. I want to endure my daily grind and the regular offenses without grinding my teeth or complaining. I need God's grace on this because I can't ever get there on my own. Patience begins with being patient with yourself.

People either repent, and we forgive them. Or, they do not repent and suffer the loss of their souls for eternity. Either way, it all comes to God's good end. God knows His business, and patience is letting God tend to His business. Our business is to be tending to our souls and doing penance. May God's kingdom come and may His will be done. AMEN.

Never be in a hurry; do everything quietly and in a calm spirit. Do not lose your inner peace for anything whatsoever, even if your whole world seems upset.