Things That Test Our Patience

Things That Test Our Patience January 2, 2023

I sometimes am frustrated by inanimate objects. But nothing puts my patience to the test like people. A counselor says I have a low threshold of tolerance. I agree. Well-laid plans, and even not-so-well-laid plans, are better than no plan. And when they are disrupted, I can really lose it. Maturity has tempered my reactions some. Just let me experience fatigue or be a bit “hangry,” and you may want to avoid my company lest I test your patience. Let me unpack some of the things that test our patience and see what we can do to overcome them.

The Test of Faith

Remarking on a scene in the film Seven Years in Tibet, a friend said, The Chinese Generals are the kind of people that keep me from becoming who I want to be.” I understand this. But it is not true. Other people try my patience. But the really challenge is when they test my faith.

What I believe is what I might become. I may aspire to some sense of spiritual growth. But the only factor that can hinder that growth is myself. The attitudes I have about myself as a person effect my personal growth more than the actions of another toward me. If I feel something about myself is being violated or challenged, my reaction will be based on my attitude. It will not necessarily be based on the action. The perception of the violation will determine the measure of the counter action.

A test of faith is not as much about what we believe as much as it is our understanding of the value. For instance, all attacks on heretics are not about the validity of the faith claims. They are always about the validity of the institution making the claims. The institution responds to all heresies as though its life is being threatened because it is. An argument for the past suppression of Galileo’s work made today can only hinge on the perceived arrogance of the scientist. The aim of such an argument only serves to maintain the integrity of a failure of the institution.

Killing the Souls of Others

I once had a friend who was a conscientious objector in World War II. He was assigned to be an orderly in a military mental hospital. He told me about a patient who was continually fighting with other patients. When asked, why he attacked the person his reply was, “That (SOB) spit in my face.” Eventually he was taken to a wing of the hospital where more serious cases were. The patient returned three months later.

My friend asked, “Have people stopped spitting in your face?”

The patient replied, “No. The doctors taught me to ignore it.”

I tell that story from time to time because soul-killing people will keep trying to destroy others. How do we respond? Should we become defenders of the weak? How do we see ourselves? Saying, just ignore them, is not an answer. Being patient with such people is almost impossible. The answer is to be immovable.

The Test of Patience

Nothing is more annoying to people wanting their way than becoming an inanimate object. We decide not to be moved by circumstances. And we definitely need not move for the sake of evil. The car that does not work really annoys me and my work plan for the day. It stops and stays stopped. Like the old spiritual, we should respond like the tree planted by the waterside.

Those tests of our patience, the people seeking to disrupt, can be met with a blank stare. In the film, the generals lose patience and storm out when met my the young and immovable Dalai Lama. In the story, he does not stop them from becoming what they intend to be. Nor do they stop him from becoming who he already is.

Tolstoy is commonly thought to have become an advocate of non-violence. In fact, he became an advocate for non-resistance to evil. The difference being that his new way of Christian being was not a tool to change the world or the community. Rather, it is an idea of not giving in to evil. He saw that as Jesus’ ideal in the Sermon on the Mount. Perhaps we should become the test of patience for other people? Then we will experience that otherwise impractical peace.

C. Don Jones is a United Methodist pastor living in Maryville, TN You can read more about the author here.

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