“So what’s the bottom line?” Jill wanted to shout at the woman who was giving the support group the long version of her current dilemma. It was getting late and five members were still waiting for their turn to share the issues they had faced during the week. Of course as a trained counselor, Jill knew she had to resist the urge to show her impatience. Sure she was high strung and impatient in general, however, she’d recently had an “aha” moment during a bible study at church. She had finally gotten it: patience is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. It wasn’t something that she could achieve by counting to ten or making a New Year’s resolution; it could only be produced in her by the Spirit of God—with her cooperation. Perhaps you, along with me, share Jill’s challenge in this area.
I’m on a mission to understand and overcome the root cause of my tendency to become impatient with others. I often reminded myself that we are all victims of a fast paced, instant gratification society where we have become accustomed to instant communication (phone, texting, instant messenger), instant food, instant credit, instant news, Hi-speed internet, and a host of other “now” conveniences that cause us to become annoyed at waiting for anything. Clearly this is a self-imposed problem with far reaching consequences since impatience not only affects us physically but emotionally and relationally. What we need is a major shift in our expectations regarding how fast we should move or the pace at which we expect others—including God– to do so.
Impatience affects us emotionally since we feel angry and exasperated when things do not go the way we think they “should”. Jesus warned, “In your patience possess ye your souls” (Luke 21:19 KJV). Bible scholars and psychologist all tell us that our soul is the seat of our emotions. Developing the habit of enduring delays without emotional interference will preserve our joy and keep us at peace. Just try it… for the next 24 hours, refuse to express impatience with any situation.
Impatience hurts our relationships in that it causes us to relate to others in a non-beneficial, non-compassionate manner. Think about how you feel when even a stranger is short-tempered with you. Depending on your spiritual maturity, you either want to retaliate, rebel, or run from his presence. If the impatient person is significant to you and you value his input or perception of you, his impatience can rob you of your confidence and make you feel devalued. Remember this when you are tempted to express your impatience even in the simple form of a deep sigh.
Overcoming impatience begins with an awareness of its presence, a commitment to allow the Holy Spirit to produce patience in you, and a decision to stay in the present moment rather than obsessing about what must happen next or later.