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I want to talk to you today about the importance of patience.

I was at a conference in Washington DC earlier this month, and I headed back to Dallas on a Sunday night. We landed about twenty minutes late, and started to taxi back to the gate.

That’s when the problems started. At first, the plane stopped and the pilot made an announcement: the plane sitting at our gate was delayed, and we would have to wait a few minutes for it to depart.

Fifteen minutes later, we received another announcement: the plane sitting at our gate was still delayed, and we would have to wait another twenty minutes.

Thirty minutes later, we received another announcement: the plane sitting at our gate didn’t have a crew, and we would have to wait another… well, this time the pilot sounded exasperated and said he wouldn’t even give an estimate for how long the wait would be.

I could feel my blood pressure start to rise.

“What’s the holdup?” I thought to myself. “We’re at one of the largest airports in the country. You’re telling me there isn’t one other gate open at this entire airport?” “Don’t they know I’m tired and want to get home?!”

I wasn’t the only one who was frustrated. Some people seemed to be coping okay, but other folks were downright grumpy.

I started to think about what differentiated the people who were doing okay from the people who weren’t. We were all in the same frustrating situation. Why were some people happy and others were unhappy?

I think it had something to do with patience.

Patience is defined as the bearing of provocation, annoyance, misfortune, or pain, without complaint, loss of temper, or irritation. Another definition of patience is the ability or willingness to suppress restlessness or annoyance when confronted with delay.

In other words, when put in a frustrating situation where one has to wait, the patient person is able to relax and not get frustrated or angry.

Why is patience important? I think ideally we would all probably prefer to avoid situations like my plane. But the fact of the matter is, we can’t always control delays. Sometimes we have to deal with unpleasant situations or the mistakes of other people. This is a reality of the world we live in.

If you are an impatient person, you might be unhappy a large percentage of time. And we don’t have time for that 🙂

The next time you are in a frustrating situation, in which there is a delay that you cannot control, try to reframe the situation as helping you work on your patience. After all, you can’t develop a virtue or character strength if you are never in a situation where you have to flex that ‘muscle.’ Perhaps the frustrating situation can help you develop patience so you can be happy and relaxed, even when you find yourself in situations which test your patience.

Discussion: How do you react when you are placed in a frustrating situation in which you have to wait? What have you found to be most effective for improving your patience?

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