Recently I’ve begun to realize how impatient I am and how much it hurts every relationship I have — from family and friends to new acquaintances and coworkers.
How many times do I brush someone off or pretend to listen because my mind is somewhere else, on the MORE IMPORTANT THINGS I need to be doing — those ever-present, ever-looming items on my daily to-do list?
I think many of us struggle with this.
Maybe you’re grocery shopping and someone is talking your ear off, and you needed to be out of there 10 minutes ago so you can get home and start dinner.
Maybe you’re just trying to finish writing an article before your deadline and your toddler keeps coming over and hitting your laptop with a spatula in an attempt to engage you in a spatula duel.
Maybe your great aunt is calling and you don’t want to stop the video you’re watching because it’s your down time, so you mute it and turn on subtitles while attempting to continue the conversation.
In all of these examples, does your to-do list item outweigh giving your full attention to another human person for a few minutes? No.
I realize this in my own life all the time.
When do my friendships fall apart rather than thrive? When I let my to-do list become the most important thing in my life, so that I run out of time to make that phone call or plan that coffee date. When I don’t give my full attention to a conversation because I’m worried about other stuff.
When is my relationship with my husband the most strained? When I’m frustrated by the way he does things, and either tell him so or just take over and do it my way. When I don’t want to listen to what he’s saying, because it’s taking too much time, so I try to end the conversation quickly or change the topic so it works towards my goals for the moment.
When is my relationship with my son the most strained? When I don’t take the time to explain to him what’s going on. When I just do things for him because I am in a hurry instead of helping him learn how to do them himself. When I can’t handle his nonstop talking and insistent inquiries, and just want to curl up in a ball and hide instead of answering him or gently redirecting him to a game he can play.
When is my relationship with God the most strained? When I avoid taking time to pray, or I sit impatiently at Mass just waiting for it to be over so I can get on with my life.
These are some of the ways impatience hurts my relationships. But a better motivation for me –rather than just focusing on how detrimental impatience can be — is to focus on how much of a gift it is to be patient and engaged in the moment.
We were talking about this recently in the women’s small group I attend at our parish, and we shared stories of people in our lives who made us feel heard and seen when they talk to us — people who put their entire focus on you during a conversation and it is like the rest of the world doesn’t matter to them. Just you. You feel understood, seen, and honestly, you feel loved.
My goal is to strive to be more like those people. No matter how busy I think I am, I want to be able to give my full attention to the person in front of me.
So goodbye, impatient old me and hello to the new patient me who wants to treat others with the respect and time that she herself deserves and craves.
Sometimes impatience isn’t just a lack of virtue
Struggling with patience? Let this famously impatient saint help you