Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. (Colossians 3: 12-13)
Demonstrating patience with other people can be one of the most powerful examples of God’s love for us. As the Golden Rule teaches, we are to do to others as we would like others to do to us. I can’t think of any instance where I wouldn’t want other people to treat me with kindness, compassion, and especially patience. As God’s children, our approach to patience affects our ability to be a positive example and to share God’s message with the world.
Knowing that, unfortunately, doesn’t make being patient with other people any easier! The truth is, some folks will try your patience constantly. Someone who continually interrupts what you are saying, bothers you at work, has terrible timing, or tells boring story after boring story may be very difficult to get along with.
Impatience can certainly affect our relationships in a negative way and lead to unresolved conflict.
Sometimes, however, our impatience with other people injures no one but ourselves. This is the silent, petty impatience with perfect strangers we experience throughout the day. For example, how many times have you secretly fumed at a very slow customer you got stuck behind in the grocery store?
I am a very fast walker, so one area where I am challenged to keep my patience is when I get trapped behind a bunch of slower walkers. They may be having a great time meandering down the walk, catching up on conversation, but I am immune to their good times. I bounce on my toes like an Olympic sprinter, waiting and watching for any opening where I can squeeze in and pass the inconsiderate horde.
The fact of the matter is that your anger and impatience toward those loud people at the next table or the teenagers that rammed into you on the bus doesn’t affect them in the least. They are oblivious and, while definitely rude, they aren’t out to get you personally. Most of the time, we just endure it silently. But instead of letting it go, we often let these nuisances build until our whole attitude for the day is damaged.
God teaches us to release the negative emotions that focusing on these petty annoyances can cause and to set our minds on more positive endeavors:
And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. (Philippians 4: 8)
Excerpted from Living Large for God: Developing Patience and Perseverance in an Impatient World, available from Amazon.com in paperback and as a Kindle download.