Thursday, March 19, 2009

Some Quotations on Patience

I’ve been gathering some ideas about patience. From Elder Neal A. Maxwell:
Patience is not only a companion of faith but is also a friend to moral agency. Inside our impatience there is sometimes an ugly reality: we are plainly irritated and inconvenienced by the need to make allowances for the agency of others. In our impatience we would override others, even though it is obvious that our individual differences and preferences are so irretrievably enmeshed with each other, that the only resolution which preserves agency is for us to be patient and long-suffering with each other. ("Patience and the Law of the Harvest.")
Michaela here. That seems like a very important idea—patience is a friend to moral agency (which we take to mean “freedom to choose”). Patience allows choice, but that’s not the end of it. If you see the name of the article that this quotation came from, you see that patience is also related to the law of the harvest (a.k.a. the long term consequences), meaning that it often takes patience to see the long-term consequences of choices we and others make. It takes time and patience to see the results of the efforts we make to nurture people. It also takes time and patience to see that breaking the commandments ultimately does bring misery and keeping the commandments brings happiness and blessedness.

From Elder Franklin D. Richards (Conference Report April 1968):
In periods of health, prosperity, and well-being, we are inclined to overlook the importance of patience and are apt to become impatient. It is well to remember, however, that there are many hazards connected with impatience. One of the greatest is that of overextending one's self-physically, mentally, financially, or in many ways.

In 1828 the Lord, in a revelation to the Prophet Joseph Smith, said, "Do not run faster or labor more than you have strength. . . ." (D&C 10:4.)

By exercising patience, we will not be inclined to run faster or labor more than our strength justifies.
Me again. So, impatience can cause mental and physical exhaustion and debt. Interesting. Back to Elder Richards...
In this regard, an adage that has been particularly helpful and inspirational to me is: "Survey large fields, but cultivate small ones." Often we want to cultivate large fields before we are properly prepared and equipped to do so.
So it seems that we must have a profound knowledge of our own capabilities AND limits in order to plan as properly and patiently as Elder Richards suggests. He continues:
Concentrating on an immediate task while envisioning and planning for extensive growth requires genuine patience, and patience is very essential to sound growth and development.
Oh man, do I ever need help with this. It’s one of the things I have terrible troubles with. I get brilliant ideas for enormous projects and get all excited about them, and then I realize that I don’t have time for them. It is absolutely agonizing to me when I realize I have to wait until I actually have time before I get started on that shiny new project. And this is usually when I have about five or six other projects that I have previously placed on the back burner! I keep saying to myself, “If I just do a little bit on it at a time, I can do it.” And inevitably, my enthusiasm wanes at some point and then the project remains at a bare beginning. Most of my projects are of a literary nature and are extensive in scope. Ideas for non-fiction, ideas for novels, ideas for short stories, ideas for posts on this blog…
One way to develop patience and to make it a positive force is to carefully plan our activities and set realistic objectives and goals. Sound planning requires meditation, patience, and prayer. President McKay has frequently referred to the great benefits…derived from meditation.
This reminds me of an interesting thing I read that President Eisenhower once said, which went something like this: the important things are rarely urgent and the urgent things are rarely important.

So, to be committed to the important things, you frequently have to take the initiative and work them into your schedule with the expectation that your efforts will be rewarded in time. And because the important things are rarely urgent, they are like indications of God’s patience with us, waiting for us to commit to them.
Frequently, patience is developed when coupled with repentance: a changing of one's attitude, a controlling of one's temper, or some other corrective action. But patience combined with prayer, repentance, faith, and works will overcome obstacles of every nature.

Patience means persevering, and persevering means work—mental and physical.
Maybe the persevering part is where I get hung up.
President Grant used to quote Ralph Waldo Emerson: "That which we persist in doing becomes easy to do, not that the nature of the thing has changed, but that our power to do it has increased." …. [B]e not weary in well-doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great. (Doctrine & Covenants 64:33.)
I suppose that when we carefully budget our time and energy to the things that most matter, we can avoid getting too tired of doing good things. I just wish I could remember not to get impatient with those small, laying-the-foundation things!

So, what have I learned from these quotes? I've learned a lot actually:
  • A patient person allows others to make choices.
  • A patient person looks for and is aware of long term consequences.
  • Prosperity, health, and well-being can actually increase our impatience.
  • Patience helps keep us from exhausting ourselves and our bank accounts.
  • Patience requires attention to both immediate tasks and long-term planning.
  • Patience requires meditation and reflection.
  • The non-urgent yet important things in our lives are manifestations of God’s patience with us.
  • Patience comes through repentance.
  • Patience takes work.
  • Having patience and not over-extending ourselves prevents us from becoming weary of well-doing.