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Patience Is a Virtue

“Patience is a virtue,
Virtue is a grace;
Grace is a little girl
Who wouldn’t wash her face!”

This is a nursery rhyme my mom used to encourage patience in me as a child – and which I have the privilege of reciting to my own child as well. In trying to find the source of this rhyme, it quickly became clear that there is no single origin. The introductory line can be traced back to The Canterbury Tales in the 14th century; however, it’s possible that it actually dates back as far as the 3rd or 4th century A.D.

Whatever the case, the idea that ‘patience is a virtue’ has been around for a while, and with good reason. I appreciated the explanation given by “Part of the reason this has been a long-standing truth throughout history is because patience often goes against our instincts. It’s something everyone struggles with, including our earliest ancestors.  The good news is, patience is a skill that can be learned over time. The more we exercise patience, the less likely we are to become agitated when forced to wait for something. Mastering this virtue will make for a happier life. That’s certainly one of the reasons why it’s so famously touted by writers and philosophers alike.”

The virtue of patience came to my mind a couple of months ago, after the driver of the car-carrier truck behind me ever-so-politely came to my car, in stopped traffic, knocked on my window and gently requested that I not dart in front of him as I had done. He said that if I’d signalled my desire to change lanes and waited a little while, he’d have let me in. Fair enough.

Right after that incident, as the Christian radio station that I usually enjoy hosted its week-long semi-annual fund drive (which meant that I was hearing more pleas for money than pleasant music), I found myself station-surfing to find an alternative. I landed on a member-supported station playing an enjoyable tune. After that, though, they aired a long track of guitar and pan flute instrumental melody. This is not my normal choice of music. I usually prefer songs with meaningful words, often with a quicker beat. On that day, however, already mindful of cultivating more patience in myself, I chose to stay on that station, sit with it, and enjoy it for its slower pace and calmness. I still don’t particularly enjoy that style of music, but it was an interesting experience to let that song be, to just be patient and not switch stations again right away.

Another reason to be patient on Australian roads (where I live) is the preponderance of speed cameras. While I understand the value of such devices in calming particularly violent or dangerous stretches of road, they are mostly revenue-raisers in this country. The law does not allow for much lenience either: drive at a speed beyond a few kilometres per hour over the speed limit will elicit a ticket and hefty fine. Although I prefer to drive freely, still responsibly, but without checking my speedometer every few hundred metres, a fear of fines lightens my lead foot somewhat.

Those situations, combined with noticing some other instances of unnecessary lane-changing in relatively heavy traffic just to get a car length or two ahead, have got me thinking more and more about how driving, unless explicitly in a race, isn’t actually a race! Arriving somewhere on time is important, but, under normal circumstances, not critical. Getting my child to school on time is a good habit to be sure, but if we happen to be a little late sometimes, so what? It won’t be the end of the world: I’ll write an explanatory note, and we’ll each be on our ways.

I have the propensity to want to be exactly on time, which is a very narrow window of time, which means I’m always prone to being a teeny bit late. Somewhere along the way, I apparently decided that being early was not cool! In light of my new awareness of patience, however, I have a new appreciation for being early, and being patient until the right time to enter the building, or join the party, or whatever the scenario. It is disrespectful of me to make someone else wait; I just need to suck it up.

Wanting to bring the Lord into the conversation, I was curious to see what the He has to say about such matters. I came upon a couple of instances from His Word, including explanations thereof in the Writings for the New Church:

“The seed that is in the good ground, these are they who in a simple and good heart, hear the word, hold it fast, and bear fruit in patience.” (Luke 8:15)

The Heavenly Doctrines describe that “’to bring forth fruit in patience’ signifies to do truths and goods even when living amid falsities and evils, that is, among those who are in falsities and evils.” (Apocalypse Explained 813:4)

“If anyone shall lead into captivity he shall go into captivity; if anyone shall kill with the sword he must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints.” (Revelation 13:10)

Again, in the Heavenly Doctrines we read that “’the patience of the saints’ signifies the temptation of the faithful, or of those who are made spiritual by the Lord, because ‘patience’ signifies spiritual patience, which is patience in sustaining temptations; and those have that patience who fight in themselves against the falsities that are contained in the dogma of faith alone and that adhere to it; for that faith is confirmed by reasonings from the natural man and from the Word wrongly applied and thus falsified. The temptations that such sustain when they fight against falsities are meant by ‘patience.’” (Apocalypse Explained 813:2)

I am really glad to have found these passages, and they’re shedding a new light on the concept and importance of cultivating patience! Learning patience in this world is useful for a variety of worldly reasons, such as for health and safety (and for the law and personal finances, i.e. not breaking the law and not going broke on account of speeding tickets!), and now we can see the next, spiritual dimension of this virtue. It’s about facing temptation, which, superficially, includes resisting the urge to zoom ahead or cut someone off, automotively or otherwise, but which, on a deeper level, extends into rationalising things from our natural minds and from the Word and applying them incorrectly to life matters. The Lord urges us to practice patience, to sustain temptation, and promises that, as a result, we will be implanted with truths and be made spiritual, as we trust in Him and work to do goods and truths even amid the falsities and evils in this world around us.

These sound like reasons enough to me!

The Work of Empathy – That is Loving

Boundaries are important. My body seems to be bad at boundaries. My ligaments and tendons are too loose, and particularly at my joints they don’t hold my muscles where they should be. This means my joints can hyperextend or bend in the opposite direction more than they’re meant to. This could easily lead to more serious injuries, but mostly just means extra aches and pains as muscles stretch out and bones aren’t kept in place. It’s probably not possible to know whether its all genetics or some other external conditions, but one way or another it seems this is how I was born. I am having to learn how to force my body to re-learn and maintain its boundaries in hopes of not crippling as I age.

Emotional boundaries seem very interconnected and similar to me. We need boundaries to help us know where our emotions stop and another person’s begin. Without these boundaries we can bend and sway too far into another person’s emotional world and anxiety mounts as we take responsibility for things that are not ours to control.

Continue reading The Work of Empathy – That is Loving

Just Who Do We Think We Are?

I read books—mostly fiction—like most of us eat popcorn: frequently, in large quantities, and without much chewing. But there’s one I’ve been slowly nibbling on that has affected me more than any other secular book I’ve read in 2018: Mindset by Carol Dweck. It’s changed the way I think, especially about my spiritual life.

Dr. Dweck, a psychologist from Stanford University, asserts that way people view their talents, personalities, and skills affects the way they approach almost every aspect of life. According to her theory, people adopt either a “fixed” mindset or a “growth” mindset. Those who take a fixed mindset approach—say, about learning to play the piano—believe that ability is static, that talent largely explains success. But those with a growth mindset believe that they can change—that effort will result in improvement. Dweck illustrates her theory with extensive research and neat anecdotes from the worlds of sport, art, education, business, and relationships.

To be honest, I almost stopped reading at the introduction because her idea was so simple. Most of us would say that a good attitude and hard work can get us places. But do we truly believe that? Dr. Dweck shows how insidious and damaging the fixed mindset can be. Continue reading Just Who Do We Think We Are?


The Children of Israel left Egypt and were pursued by the Egyptians. When they reached the Red Sea, they were trapped, but the Lord worked a miracle: the sea parted, the people crossed on dry land and the Egyptians couldn’t follow.

“Israel saw the great work that the Lord did against the Egyptians. So the people feared the Lord and believed in the Lord and in his servant Moses.” (Exodus 14:31, NRSV)

“’And they believed’ means faith and trust. This is clear from the meaning of ‘believing’ as possessing faith, and also trust since one who possesses faith also possesses trust. Trust is an attribute of love expressed through faith; consequently trust in Jehovah, that is, in the Lord, does not exist except with those in whom love is present, that is to say, love to the Lord and towards the neighbour; for faith does not reside with any others.” (Arcana Coelestia 8240, Elliot)

Trust, an attribute of love. I have been meditating on this idea this last week, on the relationship between trust and love. Trusting the Lord means loving Him, and both are active choices on my part. Continue reading Trust