Dealing with Impatience
Do you have a struggle with patience? Join the club.
Many years ago, as a young father with several small children, I concluded that the family was a crucible in which gods are made. Where else, I reasoned, would I have the patience-trying experiences that Joyce and I were bombarded with as we struggled to maintain some sort of order and self-control while surrounded by babies and adolescents, each with different levels of maturity, wants, and I’m-not-there-yet behaviors?
“By the time I get through this,” I determined, “I will have mastered patience.” Unfortunately, moving from looking philosophically (and with regret) at my behavior after a frustrating experience was over, to applying patience while I was smack-dab in the middle of it, was an often-inconsistent struggle for me. However, those realizations and my striving to be patient during turmoil, even though coming in fits and starts, was important. As irregular and inadequate my efforts were at times, still they had a positive effect on every member of my family. For one thing, I became quick to apologize when my lack of patience flared, and over time, I saw progress. But regrettably, it was much slower than I wanted. In my journal, at the beginning of each year, I wrote my personal goals. At the top was patience—year after year after year.
There eventually came two serendipitous insights that were literally life changing. First, I realized that my primary responsibility to my family was for me to act and think like a heavenly father, not to try to mold my children into heavenly children. In the eternal scheme of things, I discovered that I’m the only one I either have the right or the capability to control or change. My seeking to forcefully perfect others, at the very least, distracted me from focusing on my own weaknesses. Mote or beam in the eye comes to mind. More significant, it replicated Satan’s compulsion-plan that robbed others of agency and included, perhaps, an unstated desire on my part, like Lucifer’s, to be elevated to savior status. An uncomfortable “give-me-the-glory,” self-promoting thought for sure. The real Savior’s way was invitation, patience, and example.
My second course-changing awareness was the reality of the miracle of striving to love God and Jesus Christ purely, and with all my heart, might, mind, and strength (See I Nephi 11:21-23 and Moroni 7:47). That I wanted to do this was a personal discovery of literally infinite potential. To love them was to want to become one with them and to place that desire above all other desires. It was to offer the only thing that was truly mine: my soul (See Omni 1:26). This was the gateway to becoming as they are. This was the means of obtaining constant Spirit-guidance to counsel and serve and love my children, Joyce, and my fellowmen; and, to receive assistance and direction in all that I was about, here on my telestial tour. This was the way that patience and every other godly attribute could ultimately and unfailingly be manifest in my own life. This was the way to my lasting peace.
The love of God is His supernal gift, I learned, and it was mine if I truly wanted it. (See Moroni 7:48). The wanting it was everything, because with that came the desire to actively and consistently seek to know my weaknesses so they could be overcome. As my substantial pride gradually ebbed, my pursuit of repentance daily, hourly, and at the very moment of my slipping, became ever more regular. I came to see that my ability to recognize my weaknesses was in direct correlation to the degree to which I drew nearer Jesus Christ; the degree to which I loved Him. And this love, in turn, gave me access to receiving His grace in overcoming all that kept me from Him—including the ultimate turning of my weaknesses into strengths (See Ether 12:27).
My challenge with patience is not over yet. I suspect that while I’m enshrouded with this courser telestial stuff, remnants of my impatience will remain. Ultimately, though, because I desire it, and because the grace of Jesus Christ is real, I hope it will become a thing of the past. And I will yet see the fulfillment of the Savior’s promise: “In your patience, possess ye your souls (Luke 21:19).