The One Virtue You Should Take Away From 2020 Is Patience

If nothing else, let this year teach you to endure

Photo by Norbert Kundrak on Unsplash

When nothing works, you stop trying and start waiting. That’s a valuable lesson to learn: When to do and when to endure.

Children might learn it at the supermarket, when mommy, despite their loudest and most attention-grabbing efforts, won’t budge and buy them their candy.

Teenagers might learn it when falling in love. How long must your crush ignore you before you give up?

Adults might learn it when they first get too tired to fight against a current they don’t control. When your boss is too mean, your grandpa too sick, or your child skips school too often, at some point, you must let go. At the very least, you must take a break and get help — and that too requires patience.

No matter how many opportunities life gives you to learn patience, no number can guarantee you will. Many of us remain stubborn beyond the point of no return, even if all we find once we pass it is bitterness.

The good news is that this year — this glorious, all-encompassing clusterfuck of a year — provides a universal, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to learn patience. If you’re not adding at least a little extension chord to your fuse this year, you’ll waste this opportunity.

Maybe, you’ve already leveled up your endurance barometer. Maybe, you got tired of exploding at every little and big inconvenience because there were too many to blow up at. Then again, maybe, you haven’t.

Maybe, you were too busy imploding from a life-changing disaster to notice how much else was going on. Maybe, you didn’t give up crashing and burning just yet. Maybe, you even bottled up your anger, and you still haven’t found a time and a place to release it all in one go.

Whatever nightmare you’re waiting to be released from, consider this: The champagne-uncorking feeling of relief you long for might never come — but you can just keep waiting. A nightmare is still just a dream, and, eventually, all dreams end. One morning, you’ll wake up and realize: I’m still here, and today, the sun is actually shining.

Patience is not glamorous. It is not sexy, not something that sounds cool at parties, and not an attitude that makes for a great magazine cover.

Patience is not its own reward. At least, it’ll never feel this way when you practice it — and least so when you most need it.

Patience rarely solves problems. It makes solutions to some problems unnecessary, but most of the time, all it offers is renewed energy, better ideas, and a new angle of attack for the same problem.

Patience is, above all, necessary. Without it, you’ll get yourself six feet underground fast — sometimes literally — like a drill that won’t stop spinning. A life without patience is tragic and often shorter than it needs to be, if not in reality, then at least in imagination.

Patience is a bet on your future self. Often, these bets work out, but it’s incredibly hard to trust tomorrow-you in the present. It never feels like he or she is up to the task, does it?

Patience is, most of the time, simply the right attitude to have. Human behavior is usually contextual, not characteristic. When we cut people some slack, when we offer them a little more time or another chance, we acknowledge that, in a different time and place, we might have drawn the same conclusion or taken the same misguided action.

Patience is thankless but it works — and that’s why it’s a virtue. It is never a convenient time to cultivate this virtue, but in terms of when it bears the most fruit, 2020 is as good a chance as we’re gonna get. Even as this chance draws to a close, there’s still time to make patience a theme among your year-end reflections.

What did 2020 teach you about patience? When were you patient when you’d have least expected yourself to be? Why did one everyday occurrence send you flying off the handle but another did not?

Like patience itself, these questions won’t always lead to results nor provide immediate enlightenment, but, in a world that asked more of us this year than ever before, they sure are worth pondering.

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I write for You. That’s my promise — and the name of my daily email full of inspiration, smart ideas, and emotional support: https://youletter.substack.com/

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