NEWS

The virtue of patience: the moment is not just about what’s happening

Notes on relational chaos (Part 2)

By Rev. Jim Innes

“Life doesn’t get easier. You just get better at being able to handle it..”

Stuff happens! It is a theme that I have drummed out in many articles. Just when we think we got it clear, a cloud rolls over, quite unrepentantly, and it storms big time.

In part 1 of this article, I wrote particularly of how such storm creates physical, mental and emotional health problems. I also suggested that PTSD easily results. And that all these effects, from minor to major, can create secondary storms that heavily layer our issues.

Making our return to ‘normalcy’ somewhat complicated.

In addressing some of this healing process, I quoted last month Timber Hawkeye, a Buddhist writer, “You can’t calm the storm so stop trying. What you can do is calm yourself and the storm will pass.”

This personal work means learning to self-sooth, developing healthy distractions, and in extreme cases, seeking professional support; including drug therapy and/or body centered treatments.

A storm, and the chaos it can create, may often feel frighteningly unrelenting. But storms don’t last forever. And what might develop with conscious attention, and, over time, is a sense that the moment is not just about what’s happening, but about how we behave while it is happening. Such behaviour is best built upon the virtue of Patience.

What does such patience look like?

In my mind, it looks like we believe life has direction, and within it we have purpose. It is the attitude of optimism, confidence, persistence, and even prayer. It comes from the heart and cannot be faked. It is what underlies this ageless text: “suffering produces endurance, endurance produces character, and character produces hope” (Romans 5: 3-4).

Someone once said, “Patience with others is love. Patience with self is hope. Patience with God is faith.” It is my belief that developing and practicing patience, particularly a patience with Life itself, is a journey worth taking. And it may not be a journey we necessarily choose to take. It may be a journey that we can’t avoid…like Alice in Wonderland, or Dorothy in Oz.

I find that patience integrates both having, and not having control. The `having’ control is about choosing to hold on and hope. The `not having’ control is about chaos being an uncontrollable reality. Integrating these leads to an acceptance of adversity, and a deep trust that life needs time to work itself out.

Patience can’t change what happened, but it can make a big difference in what will happen next. Without it we too often react in an emotional `scene’ that is counter-productive.  Patience enables the dust to settle. I was once told, as perhaps many of us have, to never make any big decision when in the midst of a crisis. Time is a healing support.

As I see it, learning to trust that life has, and will, treat us right, no matter the chaos of storm, is a mindset developed with the wisdom of experience. We eventually manage the storm by moving through it, over and again. Each time breathing deeper and longer, while the rubbish flies about our head.

Rev. Jim Innes is the rector of the Regional Ministry of South Huron.
[email protected]