Last week I wrote about my word of the year: patience. I’ve been thinking this week about that word a lot and what it means to practice and grow in patience. It got me asking the question, “What’s the opposite of patience?” Because if I'm not patient, then what am I? I have to be able to identify where I’m at today to be able to get to where I want to be.
I believe that more often than not, our setbacks come not from not identifying a problem, but from identifying the wrong problem.
It’d be easy to say, I’m not patient therefore I’m impatient, but that’s actually not all that helpful. It doesn’t tell me anything new about myself and it’s just ambiguous enough that I don’t have to do anything about it. How do you stop being impatient and start being patient? Try harder? Do less? Be bored?
Is impatience the root issue or is there something deeper under it? I guess what I'm getting at is, okay, I’m impatient. But what causes impatience? Where does it come from? That’s way more interesting and helpful to me.
I started paying attention to the times I felt impatient. Both in the last week and reflecting back on the past year. Every time I felt the most restless, frustrated, ready to jump, and wanting to make things happen myself, it was always in the context of feeling like I wasn’t getting what I deserve.
A grade in a class I felt like I deserved.
A compliment I felt like I deserved.
A job opportunity I felt like I deserved.
A kind of recognition I felt like I deserved.
A certain kind of ideal situation that I felt like I deserved.
And when these things didn’t happen, that's when I got upset.
It feels like patience is such an arbitrary thing to focus on, but it’s in these moments when you realize the toll that it takes on your relationships, energy, and soul. It sucks the life out of your spirit and creates bitterness towards people or a situation.
And that’s when I began to realize that a different word was popping up as the opposite of patience.
The opposite of patience isn't impatience.
The opposite of patience is entitlement.
Entitlement is the poison that kills patience. It’s the weed that grows in the garden and slowly kills everything else that’s around it. It suffocates the life out of every good and living thing that’s growing in your life.
For patience to grow, entitlement has to die.
When we talk about patience, it’s easy to think we’re talking about not getting angry in traffic, or being okay standing in a long line, or keep on waiting (waiting) waiting on the world to change. And I agree with these things. They're great and necessary micro-expressions of a macro issue. But we can't ignore the deeper, existential, Fruit of the Spirit that is captial-P Patience.
Every time I try to kick down a door before it’s ready to be opened, I lack patience.
Every time I try to hurry a relationship before it’s ready to mature, I lack patience.
Every time I try to manipulate a situation so it happens before it should, I lack patience.
Entitlement tells me I deserve all that I desire right now.
Patience tells me that life is long and everything has a time.
“He has made everything beautiful in it’s time.” Ecclesiastes 3:11.
I hate waiting for that time. But if I had it right now it may not be beautiful. As great as we all like to think that we are, maybe we’re not ready for it. Maybe we think we could handle it right now but God knows that we can’t.
Patience is admitting that I haven’t arrived, I'm still in the process, and I'm okay with that.
I’m 23 years old. If I doubled my life and lived it all over again, I still wouldn’t even be 50 years old. I'm entitled to nothing. I get to show up, do the work, be present in the moment, and take everything one step at a time. But I don't get to have everything I want right now.
Looking ahead to 2017, with patience in mind, I know the only way I'm going to grow in patience is if I do the soul-work of killing entitlement. I’m going to hate that and it’s going to be painful, because it means dying to myself and what I feel like I deserve. But I hear that's a good place to start when it comes to following Jesus. So I’m in.
After last weeks posts, it was so cool having some people send me the words they had decided to focus on this year. I love hearing that stuff. If you've had a chance to think about your word of 2017, leave it in the comments so we can see and be encouraged!