The opposite of patience is aggression

hourglassMost Sunday evenings I have the sense that I am standing on the edge of the week, about to dive in.  Sometimes excited, sometimes worried, often stirred up in some way.  This past week I found myself hoping for something to change – wanting a particular thing to shift, feeling impatient and restless.  Then I read this in Pema Chodron’s When Things Fall Apart:

“By patience, we do not mean enduring – grin and bear it.  In any situation, instead of reacting suddenly, we could chew it, smell it, look at it, and open ourselves to seeing what’s there.  The opposite of patience is aggression – the desire to jump and move, to push against our lives, to try and fill up space.  The journey of patience involves relaxing, opening to what’s happening, experiencing a sense of wonder.”

This was the perfect thing for me to read this past Sunday evening.  It gave me several insights about myself and how I have been engaging with my life.  The particular thing I want to change – at times I have been opening to see what’s there, but I have also definitely been either trying to endure or pushing against it, willing it to go away.  This was a lovely reminder to stay in it – it won’t change until it is time to change.

I also have struggled with impatience much of my life – something I always have wanted to be different about myself.  This passage helped me understand why – the re-framing of impatience as aggression immediately resonated with me.  That is why I feel so remorseful when I act out of impatience and as a result do harm to someone else with rude speech or action.

I can’t say this morning that I have a sense of wonder about what is going on today.  Today I will practice noticing what is, and maybe the sense of wonder will come.

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3 Responses to The opposite of patience is aggression

  1. Gwen Sherman says:

    Wow, this post resonated with me, Eleanor. The concept of opening oneself to the situation to be actively listening for what might be learned is quite useful. A friend of mine is quite good at thinking this way. When a conflict or frustrating situation itself, he asks himself “Why was this person/situation sent to me? What can I learn from this?” And oftentimes, he finds that whatever is bothering him about that situation says more about him, than it does about the situation. I aspire to shift my mindset more in that direction of seeking to learn from the conflict (including learning what the conflict/situation teaches me about myself) rather than head butting, or passively enduring. Thanks for this great reminder from your post.

  2. Yes, such a good reminder. Today I wrote ‘patience’ in my list of merits for a grant application and a friend helping me said it wasn’t snazzy enough. I laughed and left it in.

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