October 19, 2011

Two Hard (but Simple) Truths about Patience

“I could never homeschool; I’m not patient enough.”

I hear that sentiment on a regular basis – almost every time home education comes up, in fact.
And I always think, “Boy, if homeschooling parents are supposed to be extra patient, I’m really in trouble!”

Fact is, I can be very impatient. When one daughter struggles to remember her piano notes, I tense up. When the other can’t remember the –le ending on words like middle or candle, I cringe. When they want to tell long, elaborate stories, I will them to get to the point already. And, much more often than I’d like to acknowledge, my impatience bubbles over into a negative tone…and even, at times, to outright scolding. Of course, I know snarky comments and finger wagging kill motivation and merely add pressure to already-stressful situations in my kids’ minds. I know that even as the words tumble out of my mouth…but I let them fly anyway.

Chances are, you can relate. And you almost certainly wish you could change.

In my 10 years as a parent, I’ve learned two important truths about patience. First, though we’ll inevitably blow it and lose patience with our kids, a genuine, humble apology repairs the damage. My kids love me despite my impatience, and I believe that’s largely because I’ve committed to apologizing whenever necessary (some days I say, “I’m sorry” a lot!). It’s not always easy because I’d sometimes rather stew in my negativity and self-righteousness. But apologizing for my sin opens the door to conversation about how they could improve on the original task in question – a talk that wouldn’t happen if I remained arrogantly “correct” – and repairs the relationship in the process.

Second, since patience is a fruit of the Holy Spirit, I can’t manufacture it on my own. Instead, it only really comes to stay – as an actual character trait, not just a temporary reaction ­– as a person genuinely desires to become more like Christ. And that only happens as we seek His truth in His Word on a regular basis and then ask Him to apply it in our lives. I’ve seen this in action and have taken note because the contrast is so stark: When I’m not regularly seeking Him, I grow more impatient by the hour. But reading the Bible – in any book, about any topic – has an almost instant and stunning effect on my patience. I don’t always want to take the time for that, but the benefits are profound so it’s ultimately worth it.

What about you? Do you want patience? If so, acknowledge when you fail at it and choose to engage in the one practice guaranteed to grow it.


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