I once went to Confession years ago, and as I divulged my many transgressions, I still felt helpless. Typically, I am at peace and have a sense of relief after having let out all that baggage and a cathartic sensation overtakes me, but not this time, not until Father spoke. It wasn’t words of absolution that did it but a question: “Why do you continue to ask God for patience? Ask God for understanding, and then patience will come.” I didn’t quite understand what he was suggesting, but I felt trust in his words. It did not seem too far-fetched and rather reasonable, so I was left with something to ponder. When he gave me absolution, I thought more on this idea and tried to apply it to my life.
My difficulties with patience usually stem from frustrations with dealing with my children. My kids don’t listen to me at times, or they get easily distracted. They aren’t ready quickly enough or they won’t stop talking. If I put myself in their world, their understanding of their situations, I may gain this patience. Understanding in this way is most definitely empathy. If I empathize, I become a better version of myself. I use the gifts the Holy Spirit has given me to be what God envisions for me and to continue on such a path enables my salvation. So maybe my children will in fact be my golden ticket to Heaven.
The mother of one of my students mentioned that her son said he was not going to pray for patience, because then God will give him the opportunities to be patient! Isn’t that so often the truth! We are afraid of the hard work. We shy away from the challenges God gives us, expecting our lives to be simple and carefree, and quite frankly easy. Patience isn’t easy; it is quite difficult because we want to focus on ourselves and not on others. We want it NOW; we want others to cater to our whims; we want our way. If we accept people and situations for what they are, it sure brings a sensation of peace, so isn’t patience worth it?
Sometimes, I truly feel like I do not actually desire patience. If I am patient, doesn’t that mean I am not enthusiastic or I do not feel emphatically enough about things? Won’t patience hold me back from greatness? Or keep me from pursuing my dreams? Will it make me complacent or content? All these things are actually true, but only in one sense. We should not be patient with ourselves when it comes to a relationship with God. We can’t afford to wait until we think we are ready to be good and holy and virtuous. God is patient with us because He loves us, but if we are patient with a lower standard of holiness for ourselves, it could result in our loss of salvation. Heaven is too important. Our Lord is too precious to us to let a relationship with Him slip through our fingers. If there is a time to act, it is now. We cannot become patient with others; we cannot show empathy to others if we put off a rapport with God.
I will seek understanding, which will bring patience, which will arouse empathy, which is an important gift of the Holy Spirit. This level of holiness will help us gain God and gain Salvation.
What tries your patience and what can you do to understand and become empathetic?