Patience is a Virtue Reinforced in Tough Times

These last few weeks have been a trying time for my family.  My mother remains hospitalized in intensive care following four surgeries in five weeks.  We have had several visits from Murphy over the summer that strained our emergency fund.   The wild market swings have added a bit of financial stress as we watch our retirement balances swing like a giant pendulum.  Because I try to be a generally positive person, I’ve been searching for the silver lining on this dark cloud that has shadowed much of our lives these last couple month.  That silver lining has been a reminder that there is one common element in overcoming all of these negative events:  patience.

Patience is a Virtue Our Society Does Not Have

I’m not exactly sure what, or who, is to blame for our collective impatience, but we’ve become an on-demand society in a lot of ways.  Instant communication and instant gratification have made the notion of patience a dated idea.  I’m often reminded of stories from my grandfather when he was overseas serving in the Marines.  He wrote letters back and forth to my grandmother, and it usually took weeks for his letter to be received, and for her to send a reply.  Often times the items he wrote about were “overcome by events” by the time the response was received.

Fast forward to today.  International email takes only a few seconds to be transmitted thousands of miles.  Technology has improved many areas of our lives, but has also spoiled us.  No longer is it acceptable to wait very long for some piece of information.  No longer are we willing to wait for good news.

Health and Patience

As I mentioned, my Mom has faced some very serious health issues over the last few weeks.  While I would love for her to make an instant and full recovery, I know that it is not likely in the short term, and her recovery will probably take some time.  No amount of medicine, or technology, or advanced surgical techniques can speed up the healing process required.  It will just take some time.  And that is okay.  We will be patient, and will continue to take a long-term approach to her healing.

Wealth and Patience

The meltdown in the housing industry combined with a credit crunch, a war, an election year, increased fuel prices, and natural disasters have taken their toll on the financial markets.  Those reporting on the financial industry take the side of “doom-and-gloom” one minute, and then predict the beginning of a rebound the very next day if the markets bounce back up.  It is their job to provide a constant stream of analysis on the markets, but frankly I just don’t pay it that much attention.  I know that over time the markets will likely trend up.  And so I continue to contribute to retirement savings in the equities market.  I have the benefit of time on my side, and I will apply patience to my own investing strategy.

Patience is not something we are born with–remember screaming for that bottle when you were six months old?  However, patience is a virtue that is often reinforced when we are faced with circumstances beyond our control.  For instance, when nothing else matters but the healing of a loved one, you have some time to take a deep breath and think, “Wow, why was I in such a hurry all the time?”  You suddenly feel like that guy zipping along at 80mph to make the next business meeting when suddenly his car dies in a remote stretch of highway out of cell phone range.  It is only then that he is reminded of the lesson of patience–eventually someone will come along and provide some help to carry him on his way, but it may take a while.  That is sort of how I feel.  I know eventually we will all get through the rough times; it will just take a little patience.


  1. Thank you for this wonderful blog. It is absolutely amazing, and encouraging. You are a wonderful writer!

    I have selective patience. I am a mother tho, and I’m learning more and more than patience should not just be directed toward my children. It should be in all aspects of my life. Thank you for this reminder!

  2. Patience is something that is definitely learned. As children we have no concept of time so desires are either satisfied now or never. You can tell a little child “you can get it later” but they don’t understand what “later” means. Many adults have the same problem. Instant communication, almost instant meals (fast food, and pre-prepared), instant news, and the list goes on and on. I clearly remember back in college, a friend and I went to BK to get something to eat. Now typically the wait time is at most 5-6 min. even if they have to slap the patty onto their flame broiler and make the complete burger. It astounded me that a full 3 minutes after ordering he basically just says to me “Wow, it takes forever to get anything to eat! What’s taking them so long?? This is ridiculous!” I just had to say “Look, it’s fast food not instant food. At least you’re not having to cook it yourself from scratch.” I found it interesting that this normally subdue and patient guy would be bent out of shape if food didn’t get to his mouth within a few minutes of telling someone that he wanted to eat. Talk about instant gratification. People expect it these days from not only the food services but from their relationship partners and even from medical doctors as well.

    On another topic, I’m not sure how you FrugalDad view the medical industry and doctors in particular but they certainly don’t provide instant gratification. They also don’t have all the answers. There is a reason they call it a “practice”. Doctors are constantly practicing their craft on patients where they don’t know specifically what is wrong with them. Humans are not manufactured on an assembly line, so it’s always a guessing game. They usually take educated guesses but it’s still just a try at fixing the problem. It irks me when people expect magic from doctors. They’ve been watching a little too much ER and Star Trek.

  3. @DavidK: You and I are in agreement on the medical field. I am appreciative of the care they have given my Mom up to this point, but now it is out of their hands. We now wait for her own body to heal, to recover, and eventually to be restored. Even her well-regarded neurosurgeon confessed, she is out of our hands and in God’s hands. You don’t hear that confession from many doctors these days.

  4. Great post. It is important to look at ourselves and wonder what we are getting all excited FOR, in terms of instant gratification.

    I like Gail’s comment about being content. But another thing to consider is this: If we are looking at what others have and wanting it, do we realize that chances are that they have it because they went into debt to get it? Are we getting into debt to keep up with others’ consumer-spending-supported-by-debt habit?

  5. Capitalism is partially responsible. A virtue (the desire to outdo your previous accomplishments) has created a vice (the desire for instant gratification).

    The brown rice that takes an hour to make isn’t good enough. Then we have parboiled brown rice which takes about 20 minutes. Minute rice still takes 10 minutes. Now we have those microwavable pouches that heat up in 2 minutes.

    My stepson’s food choices are informed mostly by convenience rather than desire for sub-optimal choices. Thankfully, a healthy snack like bananas provide even more instant gratification than Pop Tarts, Hot Pockets, or other microwave snacks.

  6. I think some of our impatience comes from the fact that we are frustrated by what we feel we should have achieved. We look around at other who have so much more — or so it seems to us — and huff and puff about what we don’t have that we SHOULD have. I’ve worked with a lot of people who I MAKE look at what they DO have, as opposed to what they DON’T have, and it’s quite amazing how relieved they are. “the-donut-not-the-hole” approach to life can be taught, and brings with it a keen sense of I’m-Okay. So too can the rhythm of doing things for the joy of doing them… enjoying the drive (commute), the meal preparation, the music in the grocery store while you’re in the line. Attitude rules. Patience takes practice.

  7. I continue to think of your family. I struggle with patience myself and always a sense of insecurity that I will not be able to meet the demands of financial struggles that come our way. I think this is where faith really comes into play and I need to have more faith that things will all work out in their own time.

  8. @Gail: As I read your comment I was reminded of my past thoughts on contentment. The two ideas, patience and contentment, go hand-in-hand, as you eloquently explained in your comment. Thanks for sharing that perspective.

  9. Contentment is an attitude that anyone CAN learn – and it comes from within – not from outside, ie, not what you have outside (possessions).

    Patience is something I think I learned from letter writing pen pals as a child, and from sitting in Dr’s offices with my kids 🙂

    And instant gratification leaves out one very very important factor – anticipation! Half the fun of getting something, or going somewhere, is the time factor before it happens… the anticipation and excitement! People tend to miss out on that with all these instant deals now!

    Sometimes ya just gotta step off the merry-go-round, get your feet on solid ground, and enjoy the moments/days for what they are – precious gifts! Patience allows for that. And hopefully, contentment follows 🙂

    Prayers and Sunshine to your Mom and your family during this time 🙂