Tolerance is defined as “an act or capacity of enduring; endurance”.
At the beginning of this year I vowed to concentrate on patience for the next 365 days. Now I believed (as did other people), that I was a patient person. I have even been accused of being too patient. I rarely lose my temper and I calmly navigate my way through life’s difficulties. Reading A Journey to Prayer, Part 1-The Most Dangerous Prayer made me consider the things we ask God for and how he gives them to us.
The year is almost over and I have a totally different concept of what it means to be patient. At the beginning of this post I defined the words patience and tolerance. I did this because I have recently realized that what I (as well as others) was mistaking for patience was actually tolerance. We tend to think waiting is synonymous with patience but it is not. You can wait very impatiently. Our ability to wait has more to do with our level of tolerance than it does our ability to be patient.
Patient waiting is calm and content without irritation. Tolerant waiting is an act of weathering the wait. Standing in line sighing and rolling your eyes because it is taking longer than you expected is tolerance not patience. Thinking of the list of things you have to do while your friend talks your ear off is not patience. A patient listener is actively engaged in the conversation and is concerned only about the person who is talking to them. Making sure not to snap at your children when they are being annoying or irritating is not patience. It is merely self control. Patience keeps you from being annoyed or irritated in the first place.
If I am truthful with myself, when my patience is tested I am much more likely to display tolerance than patience. Long lines irritate me but I realize that I have to endure the line to get whatever I am standing in the line for. Being late annoys me. While I have learned that being late is not the end of the world, it still bothers me . . . a lot! So neither example is a display of patience. That also means my accusers were wrong. I am not too patient. I am too tolerant (and I don’t think that is such a bad thing).
It may seem that I have learned a lot about how impatient I am and I have failed to keep the vow I made in January. That is not true. Coming to the understanding of what patience is and isn’t, has given me the tools I need to do better in the patience department. If I had not made the vow I would probably still be confusing patience with tolerance. Now that I truly know what patience is I have a greater chance of actually being patient instead of just being tolerant.