Patience takes root when I recognize that other people also have a right to live in this world, just as they are. (Pope Francis, AL 92)
I know how to love deeply. My life is over-flowing with family and friends whom I love, and who love me in return. I can sit down at this computer and spout profusely on the beauty of love; on the other-worldliness of love. Yet, it’s the earthiness of day to day love that tests me.
I am not a patient person. I do not suffer fools gladly. On a really bad day, fools are all persons who are not me. And, God help them if they cross me!
Pope Francis addresses the issue of patience in Amoris Laetitia, On love in the family. First of all,
Being patient does not mean letting ourselves be constantly mistreated, tolerating physical aggression or allowing other people to use us. (AL 92)
These are welcome words and important to keep in mind. A dear friend, who was a priest and bishop, used to preach that “being a Christian does not mean being a door-mat”. And, yet, how often were we taught to “suffer patiently”, or to simply “offer up our sufferings in prayer and sacrifice”? Bullies should not be ignored. Bullies need to be challenged, whether they come from within the family, school, work-place or even our churches.
So, patience is NOT merely suffering in silence.
Patience, according to Francis, is also not simply tolerating, or putting up with someone who annoys us.
Love always has an aspect of deep compassion that leads to accepting the other person as part of this world, even when he or she acts differently than I would like. (AL 92)
I might feel proud of myself for smiling sweetly and keeping the nasty retort in my mind and off my lips, but this does not change my attitude toward the other. Keeping outward signs in check is easier than changing attitudes.
Recognizing and accepting the right of others to think, act, dress, and speak differently from us takes an enormous amount of effort. It takes us out of the present (annoying) moment of encounter, and nudges us to look at the bigger reality. It challenges us to go beyond tolerance. It challenges us to put aside superficial judgment and open our minds and hearts to love.