You may have heard that phrase spoken to you, in an effort by someone to calm you down. Meaning ‘Have patience’, implying you don’t have it and you need it quickly. One of the most comical prayers people utter is “Give me patience!” what makes it comical is they mean it paradoxically. They want patience immediately. The irony is pretty clear, patience is involved with time.
Most of the time, what we really mean by asking for patience is, ‘Help me to get through this moment without losing my temper.’
It is the right thing to ask, but not for the reasons many may think.
Words are funny, they take on shades of meaning over time because of the assumptions people make, from the context they are used in. Temper actually means ‘strength’ in this case ‘of character’. It is derived from the work of metallurgy, were the heating and then cooling of metals causes the molecules to be more consistent, or line up better, so the metal can have more efficient, closer bonds. The overall result is much stronger metal.
However, there is something to be said for some things being more flexible, as a type of strength as well, and this thought is also used in developing metals for specific uses, to prevent breakage. So, whether tough or flexible, strength depends upon the moments demands. The drift of thinking about the word temper, likely, went something like this; someone was losing their temper, observed by at least two individuals. One possibly commented, “Wow what a temper!” The other, being intimidated by the dominance, assumed this meant the quality of showing aggression. Today, this is usually referred to as ‘having a temper’, instead of as ‘losing a good one’, the actual loss of strength, not the possessing of it. When we ask for patience today, we are most often asking for our strength to not break, or not letting go of a quality of restraint inside ones character. But many times the strength needed is one of flexibility, so as to see things from a different viewpoint, a more truer, bigger picture, in an overall-context-of-others-as-well perspective.
So, you may think I’m going off topic here, but I assure you I’m not; so stick with me.
Many might remember the story where the ‘King had no clothes’. A con-artist had convinced the King he had material which: revealed if the heart of the observer was of royal heritage, because they could see it; was of superior quality to anything else in the world, so it was only good enough for him of course; when anyone could not see the cloth, they would be exposed as clearly not of royal blood, thus giving the King the power of discernment for potential appointments to his council. The presumption being that anyone of royal blood was clearly more intelligent than a commoner.
Pride much!
He made a public announcement about the new royal outfit being made for him and wanted to parade himself in public to show it off. Once the con-artist ‘delivered’ the clothing the king was now stuck. Not being able to see the cloth himself the king decided to fake it, and pretended he could see it, so as to ensure his royal standing. In his pride he lost his dignity, walking in front of all, naked as a jaybird.
The problem is similar to that of im-patience. Pride is a close cousin and so it is demonstrated through this. It is contagious, those who experience frequent exposure to the outbursts of others are more likely to act in the same manner. If not for any other reasons but it is now thought of as socially acceptable, or as a viable option. It has been proven poor behaviour rubs off, it’s called negative peer pressure. A common Biblical tenet is “Bad company corrupts good character.”
Here’s where it starts to come together; see, patience is it’s own reward.
In this story, the crowds of people began to comment on the beauty of the cloth, the quality of the workmanship, and how resplendent the King looked in his new outfit. Pride; and the other side of it’s coin, fear, worked to embarrass and diminish the dignity of everyone. Everybody acted as if they could see the cloth as well. This was not tolerance, it was not compassion, it was compromise of truth and character in every heart, to preserve themselves. We are such poor souls at times, but we need not be!
It was only as a small child was honest, not yet being taught the error of going under the expectations of others, moved with empathy and compassion for the kings situation that he spoke up. At first the crowd tried to stifle him, but he persisted in his efforts to save the king from himself, he overcame the voices who sought to drown him out.
This is a beautiful story about, knowing what’s right, enduring pressure, and maintaining self control, not for the sake of ones self but for concern for another and the condition of society. A child’s wisdom; wow! Sometimes it could lead us all.
Continued on page 19.