While driving in and around one of our busiest shopping malls the other day, I couldn’t help being fascinated, and horrified, by how brash and inconsiderate the drivers were, but also those shoppers who simply walked in front of cars even though they were not in designated walk areas. I thought to myself that if they all just waited a second or two, traffic would break and everyone could get about their business without stressing out and flipping fingers to anyone who annoyed them.
Dr. Lois Mueller, a psychologist from New Port Richey, was quoted by Newsmax as saying that “patience… is tragically lacking in the general population today.” That really is tragic because having patience can lead to a better life. A study by the University of California, Davis psychology professor, Robert Emmons, notes that “patient people tend to experience less depression and negative emotions.” Dr. Emmons also found that patient people “were less likely to have headaches, diarrhea, acne flare-up and pneumonia.” Finally, Fuller Theological Professor Sarah A. Schnitker found that patient people are more willing than others to work for their rewards and, as a result, they are then more content in their overall lives when they achieve their goals through hard work.
What I witnessed in the mall parking lot is also all too prevalent in our everyday lives. I have witnessed when someone expresses an opinion, more often than not his or her friends or colleagues jump on them for being “stupid,” “uneducated,” “misinformed,” or worse. Misplaced anger! And, if someone is barbecuing dinner on the outside grill, it is not uncommon for a guest to sashay up and pass demeaning judgment on how the steaks are being “butchered.” Or, you overhear a conversation between a cardholder and their credit card company, and the frustration boils over when the cardholder yells “you must be an idiot” through their cell phone.
All this made me think about what made me acquire patience, or at least a little of it, in my own life. I grew up a young brash Irishman (and German) and I reacted, or should I say overreacted, to just about everything. One of the first experiences I thought about that helped mellow me was when I was introduced to the sport of boxing during a couple of years at a summer camp in upstate Michigan. Every time my opponent hit me, I reacted like a crazy person and, while out of control, my opponent, who was patient, would smack me again. Even I caught on to what was happening in short order. Later in life, that was a great asset to have in negotiating legal contracts. I remember one occasion in Houston when the owners of a basketball franchise were negotiating a lease for an arena to play their games in. Tempers flared, one of the attorneys representing the ownership group sat there banging on the very expensive law firm’s table, and nothing was being accomplished. Another owner’s representative and I went to the other end of this monstrous table and worked out an outline for what ultimately became the formal arena contract. A couple of people keeping their heads, and recognizing the end goal of both parties, were able to accomplish something the lawyer wrecking the table could not even dream about.
When you’re in a tense situation, give yourself a chance to think about how to react, and how your reaction might affect other people. This doesn’t have to take hours, just seconds, to get things right. This patience applies even in our interactions with animals. If you are tense while dealing with animals, they too will be tense and likely to react uncharacteristically for them. But if you are calm with them, they will respond in a like manner.
Dr. Lois Mueller, mentioned above, noted that “We need to cultivate less judgment and more understanding of others. I think this practice will lead to less anxiety and stress and more enjoyment of our lives and relationships.”
Let’s hope most of us can heed her words.