The third paramita or perfection is patience.
That elusive trait that I have difficulties in giving to others and in giving to myself. As I was thinking about this it occurred to me that it is different than being tolerant, at least as I see it. Let me give an example to see if you can follow my thinking. If I tolerate something that someone is doing then I am ‘granting’ them or ‘giving’ them my permission to not do it correct. However, if I am patient with what they are doing I accept it as a gift from them, what they are doing. Does that make sense.
In a way, one is something that I am giving another the other is accepting from them. I may be muddying the waters even more here, so let me try again. If, for example someone is moving slowly, I may tolerate it and in so doing I might say nothing externally but internally I am judging their actions. If I am patient with what they are doing, I accept it from them with no judgement, no condescending attitude, no ifs ands or buts.
With patience I am better able to see the value of what the other person is doing, I am better able to value the other person, I am less likely to make judgements of superiority or inferiority. A person moving slowly may after all be very methodical, if I am tolerant and not patient then I may miss the good qualities in everyone and everything.
Something I try to keep in mind is that everyone does the best they can, always! How can I say that in face of people who are seemingly sloppy, or inattentive or any number of other faults we may ascribe to people? Well it is easy, regardless of a person’s ability which is different from their actual performance everyone always does the best they can, even if not the best they are able.
To be patient allows me to be able to see perhaps the limiting factors on a person’s abilities. Things such as a death in the family may cause someone to be inattentive, or perhaps some problem at home for which they are unable to resolve may prohibit a person from performing to the maximum of their ability, but at the moment they are doing the best they can. I might be able to read, but without my glasses I can only see poorly and so have a difficult time reading. A person may have just been chewed out by the customer in front of you unjustly and so now they are short with you, still they are doing the best they can, even if not the best they are able.
If we are patient then we allow ourselves to step into the other person’s shoes or life for a moment. Perhaps we can see the problem and help to resolve it or maybe not, but we can be sympathetic at least. If we are only tolerant then we are still holding them accountable to our standards and not granting them their own lives and problems.
We certainly want our extenuating circumstances factored in when people view us, why should we not be equally generous with others.
Ok, that is patience with others, how about ourselves? Are we as individuals patient with ourselves, allowing ourselves the kind of space to be able to grow and overcome our individual challenges?
I suppose there is a lot more to say, others have said lots, but I’ll leave it with those thoughts and questions for you to consider.
Originally published September 2009