The Much-heralded Virtue of Patience

There is a reason patience has gotten so much press, going back considerably in time. The Chinese philosopher and author of the Tao Te Ching, Lao Tzu, may have said it best:  “Do you have the patience to wait until your mud settles and the water is clear?” Three thousand years more recently, the New Testament writer Paul wrote to the Galatians (5:23), advising them that patience was a fruit of the spirit – a spiritual gift they could count on if they accepted and followed the ways of Christ. The Hebrew Bible, too, speaks highly of patience; David’s 40th Psalm reports: “I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry.”

The belief about patience in Islam is that it enables an individual to grow closer to God and thereby attain true peace. And in Buddhism, patience has more to do with controlling one’s emotions no matter the provocation, but it’s still one of the perfections a bodhisattva tries to realize.

To me, Lao Tzu’s message was the simplest and clearest, and I like its promise the best: If we have enough patience, sooner or later, the mud will settle and the water will clear, and if that can happen, our view of the situation can only be much better.


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