I think “cultivating patience” is important in this world of increasing impatience, incivility, and down-right nastiness.
Patience is a virtue, one which refines the spirit. It builds inner strength and enhances relationships. Although it’s a virtue I try to cultivate, I have a long way to go toward making it part of my character! For example, as I was cleaning out my files, I found the following journal entry. I wrote it a year ago during my mother’s last illness.
Last night I took Mama to the bathroom at 11:30 and was in bed by midnight. Then, my intercom phone jolted me out of a sound sleep about 2:00 a.m. Mama said, “I’m peeing, what should I do?”
I heaved a huge sigh and stumbled downstairs.
I said, “You have heavy pads on–so I don’t have to get up with you every two hours!” I was irritated and spoke sharply to her. She hung her head, saying, “I’m sorry. Shall I just go back to sleep?”
Still irritated, I told her to get up, “now that I’m standing here,” and marched her into the bathroom. My anger was evident, and I’m sure she felt it. As she sat on the toilet, she pulled off the top pad. I gave her another and I told her to count how many she had altogether (4). Then I asked her how many she wore during the day when she went potty every two hours (1).
I need to apologize for my impatience and reassure her that I love her and am glad she’s living with me. No matter how difficult, I shouldn’t let my tired body dictate how I treat my mother.
As I read those words, I cried, because Mama no longer calls me at 2:00 a.m; I can sleep through the night without interruption. I wish I could go back and change my irritated response, but I can’t. I can’t even change what I said or did five minutes ago.
The years of caring for Mama have ended and I’m at a different place in my life. I’ve learned that expressing impatience or other negative emotions to my family is hurtful, for them and for me. I’m learning that I must turn such feelings over to my Savior, Jesus Christ. He will accept them, heal my heart, and help me control myself. I don’t have to endure pain and guilt for something I truly regret.
Like some folks, you might think that anger, irritation, annoyance, etc. shouldn’t be suppressed or they’ll make you sick. Such emotions can, over time, cause depression, anxiety, and other physical or mental illnesses–which is why I advocate that you turn your sorrows over to God and his Son.
Placing your burdens at His feet involves a whole lot more that wanting the pain to go away, however. It takes prayer, study, and work, turning outside yourself and reaching out to others who need solace and service. Take a deep breath, pray for the strength to curb your tongue, and acknowledge your complete dependence on and need for help from Above.