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When Patience Is Not a Virtue

We’ve all heard the common sentiment: “Patience is a virtue.”

It may have been from our parents when we were younger — maybe while we wanted to eat our Mac & Cheese before it had cooled.

It may have been from a teacher or professor — most likely while awaiting the grading of an all-too-important test or project.

It may have been from a boss — probably after we asked said boss for a raise or promotion.

And while patience is an amazing quality — a quality that allows room in our lives for other amazing qualities (like kindness, compassion, and forgiveness) — would you believe me if I told you that patience is not always a virtue? That there are scenarios in which patience is not helpful, and even worse, scenarios in which patience can be counterproductive, foolish, or flat-out detrimental to your success?

This isn’t a war on patience. I believe patience produces a calm in our lives rarely seen in our world today. I believe this calm allows us to remain ourselves in the midst of stress or anxiety. I believe our ability to remain ourselves helps us live intentionally with purpose and build lives based in happiness, understanding, and hope.

However, I’ve noticed moments in the world of over-glorified patience. I’ve seen examples of moments when being patient was producing no results, yet individuals have remained resolutely patient for the tides to change.

Herein lies my issue with patience:

Waiting for things that aren’t going to happen is not patience — it is foolish.

Patience is a virtue when there is an end to the means.

When we were younger waiting for our Mac & Cheese, our patience meant we’d be able to eat it without burning our mouths.

When we were waiting for a teacher or professor to post a grade, our patience allowed us to stress less about something we had no control over.

When we asked our boss for a raise or promotion, our patience was paired with our actively seeking that which we desired.

However, I’ve seen plenty of examples of patience simply for the sake of patience.

The problem with patience for the sake of patience is that it is not paired with any ambition to seek that in which we desire. We are waiting for things to happen that we have not actively worked for — and then we are disappointed when our results don’t meet our expectations.

Patience needs to be paired with action. Sometimes the proper action is to do nothing and wait…and sometimes it’s not.

For example:

This is my fourth draft of this blog. When I first wrote it, I had an idea for the blog, but my idea wasn’t fully complete. If I would have said, “Well, I should probably be patient and not write this blog until I’ve fully formed my idea,” I can almost guarantee you it would never have been published.

It was important for me to start taking action towards my desired outcome. Patience is more about being okay with my first three blogs not sounding how I wanted them to sound — it is less about waiting for the right thoughts to be fully present in my mind before starting.

Another example: 

A girl who wishes a certain boy would pursue her will say, “When is he going to ask me out?” Or worse, “When is he going to notice me?”

Now, I am all for chivalry, but a question seems to arise in my mind when I hear this: “Have you done anything to be noticed?”

It is great to be patient in this scenario (she doesn’t want to come on too strong) — but maybe sending a subtle hint, or at least saying hello, could get his attention. Otherwise, she may be waiting patiently for a boy who is oblivious to her intentions.



At the end of the day, I am all for being patient. Things may not always work out the way we envision, and it is a good idea to keep a level head.

But patience for the sake of patience is simply waiting. And waiting for something that isn’t going to happen is just foolish.

Be sure to pair your patience with action and intention — it is the yin and the yang of this conundrum. Physical action matched with mental resilience will deliver positive results both in the tangible and intangible sense.

Take action towards your goals. Be patient with the results. When working within this framework, patience becomes a virtue once again.

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