Dec 12, 2016
The Greek philosopher Aristotle once said, “Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet.” The most influential person in the scientific revolution, Sir Isaac Newton, confirmed this when he remarked, “If I have ever made any valuable discoveries, it has been due more to patient attention than to any other talent.” The English author Chaucer praised patience as the “conquering virtue.”
However, in our fast-paced society, patience is not a readily practiced virtue. Technology has increased the speed on the information highway. But, at the same time, it has diminished our patience. Researchers report that most of us will not wait more than a few seconds to download a video. Many prefer the pleasure that comes from winning a fast-moving video game in place of the joy that comes from leisurely reading a book. So accustomed are we becoming to same-day delivery services and smartphones that can summon a ride on the spot that we are increasingly less patient.
Modern technology is indeed a mixed blessing. We can quickly amass facts. But this is not the same as acquiring knowledge. Even in our personal relationships, modern technology both helps and hinders. With lightning speed, we can connect with someone around the globe. But, this instant connection may, at times, impede us from communicating with someone seated with us at the same table.
Unfortunately, because of the desire for instant gratification, it becomes all too easy to dismiss patience as an outdated virtue. Patience appears merely as a technique to manage our frustrations when we do not get what we want when we want it. Patience seems to be a way to inhibit our pleasure and to put our aspirations on hold. But, this is far from the truth.
Patience is not passive. Patience frees us of frustration. It regulates our emotions and gives reason the space to think, to evaluate and to make clear judgments. Without patience, we readily throw things away and discard relationships. As Fulton Sheen once said, “Patience is power. Patience is not an absence of action; rather it is timing. It waits on the right time to act, for the right principles and in the right way.”