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Patience – Friend Or Foe?

“Oh if I could just have more patience with my kids,” she sighed. “I hate it when I snap at them.”

Sara was in for a Bach flower consultation. She said she wanted a remedy for impatience. There actually is such a remedy, so it would have been easy to give her exactly what she’d asked for. Except for one thing. As we continued to talk, it appeared that what she had asked for wasn’t really what she needed.

Every once in a while, you see the story of a parent gone over the brink of his or her patience and it turns out poorly. At best, a mom who orders her kids out of the car and drives off, with an ultimate safe resolution followed by counseling. At worst, kids — and sometimes entire families — die.

Is lack of patience really the problem?

Maybe. Or maybe not. Perhaps the parent has been too patient already.

This was sure what it sounded like in Sara’s case. It’s not that she’d been too patient with the children, but rather with the situation she was in.

Sara had worked professionally until she reached her mid-30’s. At that time, she found the perfect partner, they got married, and then began a family. Good so far.

Once she had little ones to raise, Sara had quit her job. Her husband was able to easily support the family and she felt that staying home with their youngsters was the right thing to do. Still fine.

Sara’s husband travelled for work. A lot. Leaving her home for many days on end with just the kids, no support, and no other interaction with adults. This was several years ago, before the Internet was widely used by stay at home moms.

Sara was now completely isolated from the adult connection she used to enjoy enthusiastically in the workplace. Nonetheless, she believed in being home for the kids and felt she was doing the right thing, so she put up with her growing feelings of disconnection and loneliness.

“Put up with” is a euphemism for someone attempting to tolerate the intolerable. It requires a lot of patience. In essence, Sara was using her entire patience allotment to compensate for a lifestyle that didn’t suit her. She didn’t have much left for the kids!

“What if you got a part-time job a few mornings a week to get yourself out of the house and into the company of adults?” I asked. “Don’t you think that might help you be more patient with the kids when you got back home again?”

You could almost see the relief wash over Sara’s face. “You may have a point,” she considered. “I’ve been pretty patient already, but this situation just isn’t working very well.” Sara left that day with a Bach flower combination designed to help her get in tune with her own needs as a person.

How else could this play out?

Perhaps you’re not a parent. No problem. There are any number of ways “too much patience” can backfire in a person’s life.

Try this on for size. Make a quick list of things you “put up with” in life rather than taking the initiative to create a more desirable situation. Perhaps your list will include things like these:

* Your job isn’t a good fit for your skills and interest.

* You and your partner aren’t getting along well.

* You aren’t earning enough to pay the bills.

* Your back hurts.

* You’re uninspired and unmotivated, feeling that life has “won” this round.

There are steps a person can take to improve any of these situations. Yet sometimes it seems like the virtuous thing to do is to adopt more patience and accept your undesired circumstances. While that is possible, it rarely leads to the satisfaction of a life well lived.

Patience has its time, that’s for sure. Nobody benefits if you, say, develop the habit of running red lights.

Yet when you feel impatient, consider that your sense of unease could actually be valuable guidance that something in your lifestyle needs to change. Whether it’s seeking out a new job, having an honest heart-to-heart with your sweetie, finding a counselor, or hooking up with a bodyworker or chiropractor, opportunity abounds. Sometimes a little impatience is just what the doctor ordered!