There is an interesting phenomenon that happens when you begin to write, at least there is for me. It begins with the fundamentals of language, you know, nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, etc. George, my little monkey friend, has caused me to reflect on a lot of things as I have lived my life these past 10 years. He has now made me realize that the words Patient or Patience are not recognized, by any dictionary that I can find, as verbs. It is either a noun or an adjective, I am not sure that I agree.
I have to admit that prior to the surgery I never really thought much about the relationship between the different meanings of the word patient. It never really occurred to me that what I had been taught about patience and being patient as it is taught in the religions of the world and particularly the Christian world had a deeper meaning that seemed to have escaped me. I have come to appreciate that deeper meaning more today because of these challenges in my life. So let’s look at a couple of meanings:
Patient: a sick individual especially when awaiting or under the care and treatment of a physician or surgeon.
Patient: bearing pains or trials calmly or without complaint; or being steadfast despite opposition, difficulty, or adversity. And,
Patience: the capacity, habit, or fact of being patient.
It seems kind of funny now that I hadn’t made the correlation between “being a patient” and “being patient” prior to having this experience. I had always just kind of assumed that being patient and patience were Christian concepts, much like faith, hope, and charity. I didn’t really think too much about any of them other than to know that my level of understanding and ability to have or hold them was pretty small and that it needed to grow. My monkey, George, changed all of that. I now realize that these words are indeed closely related, in fact a bad patient is not patient.
I am still not a patient man, never have been although I am more patient now than what I was 10 years ago because of this experience. I have learned that being a patient is much easier and a better experience when you are patient. I know that with patience the experience of care by a doctor or surgeon is much more bearable for me.
I think that my understanding about patience and being patient were something that occurred or existed; I have always considered that condition to be a verb. The dictionary says that a verb, as a part of grammar, is
“a word (such as jump, think, happen, or exist ) that is usually one of the main parts of a sentence and that expresses an action, an occurrence, or a state of being”
So how is it that the “masters” of the language don’t recognize patience or being patient as a verb? It certainly is a verb in my opinion just as much as it is an adjective or noun. Patience can be an occurrence happening only infrequently as it did in much of my early life. Patience also implies that you have recognized and attained a state of being where you are able to control actions to attain the greatest reward.
Learning this important fact, that being patient and being a patient are closely related has been life changing for me. You see I am most impatient with myself. I have little tolerance for my own mistakes. This impatience is a quirky personality trait that I finally began to understand as I settled into the new life with my monkey, George; I understood how my impatience with myself affected the lives all of those around me. With this understanding I could begin to make changes in my life to address where it impacted my family and the relationship that I had with my wife and my children. This understanding helped realize where I could make changes where my impatience impacted my working relationships. Though I doubt that I will ever be completely patient with my own shortcomings and my inability to do what is right all of the time; I do know that I see those things now for what they are, problems that need to managed and controlled. I know that I can see them for the imperfections of my choices and character and make some allowance for accepting them as mistakes. The solution starts with me; it needs to end with me. I have tried to be better at being patient and that began because I was a patient.
This tolerance of my shortcomings and my ability to be patient with myself has been difficult to adjust to. I still lose my temper, a symptom of the problem of impatience. I know that it will likely take many more years for me to be better at this and to completely control my temper. The issues of life and the problems and challenges faced never stop; I seem to always have some issue that needs to be addressed. The challenges of life seem to be never ending; at least they have been in my life. I found a quote from President Thomas S. Monson from October Conference 1995. I likely sat and listened to this address and yet it didn’t have the meaning then that it does now.
Life is full of difficulties, some minor and others of a more serious nature. There seems to be an unending supply of challenges for one and all. Our problem is that we often expect instantaneous solutions to such challenges, forgetting that frequently the heavenly virtue of patience is required.
The counsel heard in our youth is still applicable today and should be heeded. “Hold your horses,” “Keep your shirt on,” “Slow down,” “Don’t be in such a hurry,” “Follow the rules,” “Be careful” are more than trite expressions. They describe sincere counsel and speak the wisdom of experience.
You see, there is likely tens of thousands, even millions of people in the world and though eternity, millennia past and into the future that need to understand that patient is a verb. It is something that represents a state of being. It is something that I have begun to approach in a manner that is different than what I have done in the past. Slowly, I have begun to attain the state of being that more closely matches a state of patience.
When I served my mission in the California Arcadia Mission some 30 years ago I loved to teach about a tree from Alma 32 because it talked about faith and the way that it would grow. What I now see in this story is something even more profound or at least equally profound. In this chapter Alma also talks about and helps us understand patience. After telling about planting a seed that can grow to become a tree, he adds these insightful words:
“And behold, as the tree beginneth to grow, … if ye nourish it with much care it will get root, and grow up, and bring forth fruit. …
“And because of your diligence and your faith and your patience … ye shall pluck the fruit thereof, which is most precious, which is sweet above all that is sweet, … and ye shall feast upon this fruit even until ye are filled, that ye hunger not, neither shall ye thirst. …
“Ye shall reap the rewards of your faith, and your diligence, and patience” (Alma 32:37, 42–43).
I read and taught that passage likely more than 100 times in my short time as a missionary yet I never saw the part about patience. I missed that and it is only now something that helps me to realize the important role that patience played in attaining the faith that I taught so fervently and hoped that they would obtain. Clearly another example of my hope to obtain immediate answers to what are often life long problems.
Patience is no easy task. It never has been and never will be for me, I am certain that is genetic for me. I am grateful for the opportunity that getting to meet my monkey, George, has provided for me to learn patience. I am by nature impulsive, but I am also learning to control those impulses, to have the patience necessary to be better. Sometimes that patience is easy, other times it is the hardest thing I do each day. The following quote from Dieter F. Uchtdorf has deep meaning for me:
“Waiting can be hard. Children know it, and so do adults. We live in a world offering fast food, instant messaging, on-demand movies, and immediate answers to the most trivial or profound questions. We don’t like to wait. …
“Patience—the ability to put our desires on hold for a time—is a precious and rare virtue. We want what we want, and we want it now. Therefore, the very idea of patience may seem unpleasant and, at times, bitter.
“Nevertheless, without patience, we cannot please God; we cannot become perfect. Indeed, patience is a purifying process that refines understanding, deepens happiness, focuses action, and offers hope for peace”
As hard as it is to have George around I am happy that he is here with me for now. He represents much of what I have learned about myself and reminds me of what I used to be and what I hope to avoid being like in the future. I know that George teaches me that I must wait for the Lord’s promised blessings to be fulfilled and those blessings are great if, no when, I can become patient. When my state of being is that of attaining patience, when I can say that I am patient, then I will truly have conquered the fears that allow George to even exist at all.
Life Happens and Time Goes By