One of the benefits of getting older, in my experience, is that I have acquired patience.  What used to annoy and frustrate me is more easily tolerated by taking a deep breath and accepting that I have a choice about how I will respond.  Instead of reacting impulsively, as young people often do, I realize that I am my own authority, in charge of my own emotional responses, and I do the best I can to honor all the years of meditation I have practiced (since I was 17).  That doesn’t mean that I don’t sometimes get angry or annoyed, but it means that I am much more conscious of what I’m feeling before I respond.

Teenagers are famous for acting out their feelings as they struggle with their own identity and the world around them.  They are not known for patience, which seems to be an acquired trait.  Life experience, many years of it, has taught me that the world is not always going to be the way I want it to be, and that going with the flow is often the best policy.  Everyone is struggling with something, and being patient is often the only way to be kind.

All my years as a pastoral counselor and healer have also taught me to be patient as I listen to hours of people’s sufferings.  I have to stay focused and concentrate. I have to stay grounded and calm.  I have to be present and patient as a story unfolds, sometimes over weeks, months or years.  Being patient elicits compassion and respect for the sufferings of others.  It also elicits kindness in the way I respond.

As we go through our days, developing the ability to be patient is a good spiritual practice.  It only takes one person to change several, so maybe patience can have a ripple effect in our lives.  Whether it can spread out to the rest of the world, we can only hope. 

Forgiveness and Letting Go of Judgment

To forgive is to let go of what is painful to us. This doesn’t mean that it is simply saying to someone, “What you did to me was not really that bad. I forgive you. I won’t hold a grudge,” and then thinking that there will be harmony afterwards. It is not quite that way. Rather, it has more to do with clarifying things to the other person. We don’t want to live through this any more. We want to free ourselves of the suffering and conflict and, if possible, help to free the other person as well.

Sometimes this means letting go of the preconceived judgments we have of people.  “He did that because….” She said this because….”  What seems true to us at the time may not really be true at all.  It’s important to get clarification, to talk, to communicate with the intention of understanding the other person; and, so the other person can understand you.

There is a difference between intentionally hurting someone and unintentional words or actions that hurt someone.  Sometimes it is difficult to tell the difference.  If we hold onto judgment and anger because we believe that someone intentionally hurt us, then there is no room for understanding or forgiveness.  If we find out that the person did not mean to hurt us, then we may be able to allow for understanding and forgiveness. And, of course, sometimes we need to be forgiven as well.