Advice: Whatever happened to patience?

Advice: Whatever happened to patience?


Advice: Whatever happened to patience?

IMPATIENCE has been around for a long time. There is nothing new about people losing their patience while stuck in traffic or waiting in line. But some experts believe that people are less patient today than in the past—and for reasons that might surprise you.

Some analysts suggest that in recent years many people are less patient because of technology. According to The Gazette of Montreal, Canada, some researchers suggest that “digital technology, from cellphones to cameras to email to iPods, is changing our lives . . . The instant results we get from this technology have in turn increased our appetite for instant gratification in other aspects of our lives.”

Family psychologist Dr. Jennifer Hartstein makes some sobering observations. She explains that “we have become an immediate gratification culture, and we expect things to move quickly, efficiently and in the way we want. When that doesn’t happen, we tend to become increasingly frustrated and irritable, [a sign] of impatience.” She adds, “We’ve lost the art of just slowing down and enjoying the moment.”

Some believe that e-mail is losing popularity and could soon become obsolete. Why? Because many people who send messages do not have the patience to wait hours, or even minutes, for a response. Also, with e-mails, as with letter writing, introductory and concluding greetings are often expected. But many people consider such formalities to be boring and time-consuming. They prefer instant messaging, which does not require the protocols of e-mail. It seems that people just do not have the patience to type polite greetings! Many people do not take the time to proofread what they put in writing. As a result, letters and e-mails go out to the wrong recipients or contain numerous grammatical and typographical errors.

The thirst for immediate results is not limited to the realm of digital communication. People seem to be losing their ability to wait in other areas of life. For instance, do you ever find yourself talking too fast, eating too fast, driving too fast, or spending money too fast? The few moments it takes to wait for an elevator to come, for a traffic light to change, or for a computer to boot up may seem like an eternity.

Experts have observed that many people do not have the patience to read through lengthy text in print. Why? Because they are accustomed to navigating speedily through Web pages, jumping from blurb to blurb and from bullet to bullet, hoping to land on the main point as quickly as possible.

Whatever happened to patience? Experts do not have all the answers when it comes to the causes of impatience. Yet, there seems to be compelling evidence that impatience can be harmful. The following articles discuss some of the risks of impatience and what you can do to be more patient.

IMAGINE this scenario: A man is driving on a two-lane road in a no-passing zone. The woman in the car in front of him is driving slightly under the maximum speed limit. To the impatient man, she seems to be driving far too slowly. After dangerously tailgating her vehicle for a few minutes, he loses all patience and passes her at a high rate of speed. In the process, he breaks the law and risks causing an accident.

What about the woman who does not have the patience to work with people who are not as fast or as smart as she is? Or the man who when waiting for an elevator keeps impatiently pushing the call button? Do you often become impatient with your elderly parents? Or are you a parent who quickly runs out of patience with your young children? Are you easily annoyed by the mistakes of others?

Everyone is likely to become impatient on occasion. But there may be serious consequences when bouts of impatience are an everyday occurrence.

Health risks:

For one thing, impatience is linked to frustration, irritation, and even anger. Such emotions can raise our stress level, which in turn can harm our health. A recent study published by the American Medical Association specifically pointed to impatience as a risk factor for hypertension, even among young adults.

There are other health problems associated with the lack of patience. A recent study revealed that impatience is linked to obesity. “The researchers found that impatient individuals are more likely to be obese than people who are good at waiting,” reports The Washington Post. In some areas, inexpensive fast food is easily available at all times of the day, and many impatient people cannot resist the temptation.


A study by the London-based Centre for Economic Policy Research found that impatient people are likely to be chronic procrastinators. Could it be that they feel compelled to postpone time-consuming tasks because they do not have the patience needed to bring the tasks to completion? At any rate, the tendency to postpone can have serious consequences for the procrastinator as well as for the economy. According to The Telegraph, a newspaper in Britain, researcher Ernesto Reuben stated that “procrastination seriously affects our productivity at work and can cost people considerable amounts of money as [impatient people] postpone paperwork indefinitely.”

Alcohol abuse and violence:

According to the British newspaper South Wales Echo, “people who are impatient are more likely to be involved in late-night drink-fueled violence.” Researchers at Cardiff University established this link after studying hundreds of men and women. The study revealed, says the Echo, that “impatient people were more likely to drink alcohol heavily and were prone to violence.”

Poor judgment:

A group of analysts working for the Pew Research Center in Washington, D.C., found that impatient people “often make quick, shallow choices.” Dr. Ilango Ponnuswami, professor and head of the Department of Social Work at the Bharathidasan University in India, reached a similar conclusion. He explains: “Impatience will cost you. It can cost you money, friendships, pain and suffering or any number of consequences simply because impatience is often followed by bad decisions.”

Financial woes:

Impatience has been linked to “higher debt levels,” says Research Review, published by the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, U.S.A. For instance, impatient newlyweds may want to have all the comforts of a home soon after the wedding, despite limited finances. So they buy the house, the furniture, the car, and everything else—on credit. This practice can harm the marriage. Researchers from the University of Arkansas, U.S.A., say that “newly married couples who bring debt into their marriage are less happy than couples who bring little or no debt into marriage.”

Some blame impatience for the recent economic crash in the United States. The financial magazine Forbes claims that “the state of the present market is the consequence of undue impatience combined with excessive greed. Impatience led many thousands of ordinary people to seek to acquire properties of much higher value than their savings justified. They thus sought to borrow collectively immense sums that they could not hope to repay for many years—and, in some cases, ever.”

Loss of friends:

Impatience can damage our ability to communicate. When a person does not have the patience to engage in meaningful conversation, he tends to speak without thinking. He may also get annoyed when others speak. Such a person does not have the patience to wait for others to get to the point of what they are saying. So the impatient listener may tend to rush others into finishing their sentences by putting words in their mouth or may try to find some other way to hurry the conversation.

Such impatience can result in the loss of friendships. Dr. Jennifer Hartstein, a mental-health professional quoted in the preceding article, explains: “Who wants to be with somebody who is tapping [his or her] toes all the time [or] looking at the watch all the time?” Yes, impatience is not a very attractive quality. It will drive your friends away.

These are just a few of the bad consequences that may result from impatience. The following article will discuss how you can cultivate and maintain patience.

How to be more patient

AFTER reading the preceding articles, you will probably agree that the more patient you are, the more likely you are to enjoy better health, make better decisions, and have good friends. So how can you learn to be more patient? Consider the following recommendations.

Identify the causes:

The things or situations that make you impatient have been called impatience triggers. What triggers your impatience? Are there specific individuals who try your patience? Perhaps your mate, parents, or children are the principal impatience triggers in your life. Or are your triggers usually time related? For instance, are you likely to lose your patience when you have to wait for others or when you are running late? Do you lose your patience when you are tired, hungry, sleepy, or under some type of stress? Do you more often lose your patience at home or at work?

How can merely identifying your impatience triggers help? Long ago, King Solomon wrote: “Sensible people foresee trouble and hide from it, but gullible people go ahead and suffer the consequence.” (Proverbs 22:3, God’s Word Bible) In harmony with this ancient Bible proverb, if you anticipate or “foresee” your bouts of impatience, you may be able to prevent them. At first you may have to make calculated efforts to be more patient, but in time patience can become a quality that comes naturally to you.

Simplify your life:

According to Professor Noreen Herzfeld, who teaches computer science at Saint John’s University, in Minnesota, U.S.A., “people really can’t multitask. The brain cannot concentrate on several things simultaneously.” She adds: “Over time, multitasking erodes our ability to pay focused, close attention, and this eventually eats away at traits such as patience, tenacity, judgment, and problem solving.”

It is difficult to cultivate patience when you are stressed from having too many things to do, too many places to be, and too many people to stay in touch with. Dr. Jennifer Hartstein, mentioned earlier in this series, warns: “Fundamentally, stress is the cause of much of our impatient reactions.”

So, “slow down and smell the roses,” as the old adage says. Make time to enjoy life. Make time to establish deep friendships with a few people, rather than pursuing shallow friendships with a huge network of people. Budget your time, and set your priorities wisely. Beware of time-wasting hobbies and gadgets.

In order to simplify your life, you may need to look at your daily routine. Where can you slow down or cut down? A Bible proverb says: “For everything there is an appointed time . . . , a time to keep and a time to throw away.” (Ecclesiastes 3: 1, 6) Maybe this is the time for you to eliminate some time-consuming things so that you are not too busy to be patient.
Be realistic:

Have a realistic view of life. First of all, in real life, things do not always happen as fast as we wish. Accept the fact that time moves at the speed of time and not at the speed of your expectations. That is patience.

Second, remember that you cannot always control your circumstances. Wise King Solomon wrote: “The fastest runner does not always win the race; the strongest army does not always win the battle; the wisest man does not always get the food he earns; the smartest man does not always get the wealth; and an educated person does not always get the praise he deserves. When the time comes, bad things happen to everyone! A person never knows what will happen to him next.”—Ecclesiastes 9:11, 12, Holy Bible—Easy-to-Read Version.

Instead of losing your patience over circumstances that are beyond your control, try to identify things that you can control. To illustrate, rather than getting angry over a delayed bus or train, try to find another way to get to your destination. Even walking might be better than giving in to impatience and anger. If waiting is the only option, use the time to do something productive, such as doing some meaningful reading or writing down your plans for future activities.

The reality of life is that it does little good to worry over things that you cannot control. The Bible aptly says: “None of you can add any time to your life by worrying about it.”—Luke 12:25, Holy Bible—Easy-to-Read Version.

Develop spirituality:

Many who believe in the Bible have found that by applying its principles, they can develop patience. According to the Bible, a spiritual person is more inclined to display patience, along with other important virtues such as love, joy, peace, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22, 23) The Bible promises: “Do not be anxious over anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication along with thanksgiving let your petitions be made known to God; and the peace of God that excels all thought will guard your hearts and your mental powers.” (Philippians 4:6, 7) Study the Bible and learn how you can live less anxiously and more patiently.