We all know that we are supposed to be patient, yet we are usually ambivalent about it. Patience means waiting calmly, without complaint, for something that we hope will occur. Waiting patiently often feels like reining in wild horses. We would like to step in and force that desired outcome. But, in order to be good and not rock the boat, we restrain ourselves. On the outside we are calm, while inside we are restless.
But isn’t this just a show of patience, a mask over impatience? According to A Course in Miracles, true patience means waiting without any anxiety whatsoever. Yet how can we do that? If there is some outcome we desperately want, how can we be completely at peace while it is not here? The key, says the Course, is trusting in the outcome: “Those who are certain of the outcome can afford to wait, and wait without anxiety” (M-4.VII.1).
This implies, however, that we are certain of a positive outcome, a happy outcome. And to be certain of that in all cases takes a profound trust in God. The Course says God “guarantees that only joy can be the final outcome found for everything” (W-pII.292.1). Imagine walking through life with this kind of trust. As you look on distress and turmoil, your mind is certain that there will be a happy outcome, because God has guaranteed it. It may not be the specific outcome you wanted, but, in the end-even if the end is a long way off—it will be happy.
One of our fears about patience is that it lulls us into inaction when we should be changing things. Impatience seems like a fire that can hasten that change we’ve been waiting for. Perhaps, however, we have misunderstood true patience. We think of patience as merely an absence, an absence of complaint and anger. Yet true patience is a presence, a presence of trust and a presence of love.
Most of the time we are waiting for people, right? And when we are impatient with them, when we don’t trust them to get there, when we are angry at how long they are taking, or when we just give up and leave them behind, how do they feel? They feel unloved. And people who feel unloved usually dig in their heels, and take even longer. On the other hand, imagine waiting for people filled with trust that they will make it, knowing you’ll never abandon them no matter how long it takes. Imagine waiting for them in love and not in impatience. Love can work miracles. When people feel truly, deeply loved, they change, in ways they never could have otherwise.
If patience is love and love is what allows people to change, then this turns on its head the usual idea that impatience is what gets results. That is why the Course says, “Now you must learn that only infinite patience produces immediate effects”
[Please note: ACIM passages quoted in this article reference the Foundation for Inner Peace (FIP) Edition.]