Last week we looked at I Corinthians 13:4 in our discussion of kindness as it relates to love (See “Love is… Kindness”). The beginning of that verse says that “love is patient”. I must confess that I am not a patient person. Perhaps that’s why I jumped over the first part of the verse to get to the next! A lack of patience is one of my glaring weaknesses. Sure, I’ve gotten better over the years putting a more pleasant outward face on it, but inwardly I still struggle greatly with showing patience to those around me. My personality type is not known for patience, but I refuse to accept that and use it as an excuse. If I am going to love as Christ loves, then I must learn to increase my patience. Some of you are way ahead of me in this area while others, I’m sure, can relate to my pain.
One of the keys to being patient is learning to be a good listener. Instead of immediately flying off the handle when someone upsets us, we need to learn to pause and listen to what the other person is saying. Ask constructive questions to find out why the person acted (or didn’t act) in the way they did. Too often, I fail to seek to understand why someone failed to accomplish what they told me they were going to do. When someone is two minutes late for a meeting, I start pacing and checking my watch in an agitated fashion. It can be little things that really are of no consequence in the grand scheme of life, yet it is easy to lose our patience. One of the great truths in life is that people are going to let you down. The key is to seek out the circumstances and respond in a positive manner.
Even when we may be justified for losing our patience, it is still up to us to decide how we will respond. When we react with angry or spiteful words, we are damaging our relationship with the other person. It is far more desirable to listen to what they have to say and then respond with words that will not harm your rapport. Remember Paul’s admonishment in Ephesians 4:2, 3. In these verses Paul exhorts us to be patient with one another and to diligently keep unity (or peace). Harsh words show a lack of patience and lead to anything but peace or unity in our relationships.
As a volunteer financial counselor and life coach, I have endured more than my share of disappointment with the actions of those who come seeking assistance. It is far easier to simply lose patience and throw my hands up than it is to recognize that each person I encounter is a highly valued and loved creation of God who is free to make their own choices based on the circumstances of their own life and experience. We cannot control the choices of others or how they behave, but we can control our response to them. No matter how many times they disappoint us or act in ways which we do not approve, if our love for them is genuine, we will patiently accept what has happened and move on. It’s okay to let them know how their actions made you feel, just make certain you conclude it by affirming them and telling them you just want to put it behind you so it does not hinder your relationship. Showing patience is difficult because the returns on your investment may never come. Love, however, never fails; so neither must our patience wane.
Jesus shows infinite patience with a creation that continuously rejects Him, curses Him and laughs in His face. Through it all He loves us beyond measure. This is how I know patience is an important part of what it means to love. My heart’s desire is to live my life in a way that reflects the love of Jesus to everyone I meet. If I am to demonstrate His love then I must learn to be patient with anyone, regardless of my own feelings or frustrations. I want to love as Jesus loves, so I will choose to be patient. Love is patient, and love is kind. Love is Jesus.