Sunday, January 8, 2012

Why patience is a virtue...

[Part 3 of a trilogy, Part 1, Part 2]

There's a great greeting card flowing around the internet. Here's a censored version of it. Most people would look at this and laugh for the obvious reason. Everyone understands that we hate waiting. Places to go! Things to do! People to meet! My time is important! Yes, yes. Ha, ha. But hold on a second. When we rush things, is it actually easier for us to be successful? Does going faster actually cause less accidents? Are we able to see things clearly when we only see the briefly? Do we type things out correctly the first time, every time?

You may know this joke: A man is drunk. He's heading towards his car and accidentally drops his keys. So he starts looking for them... a block away under the streetlamp. A stranger, seeing all this asks the man, "Why aren't you searching for your keys where you dropped them?" The drunk answered, "Because the light's better over here..."

It does us no good to always be right. It does no good to surround ourselves only with the safety and security of what is known. We want to repeat our successes and avoid our failures. That's primal too. And it's scary to go into the darkness. It's scary to be unsure. Our autonomic nervous system actually goes into fight or flee mode. We're primed for action, but unable to take any because we don't know what to do. That's a tough spot to be in.

We need patience because success is not a straight line. The path from a to b is unknown. We may have a direction, but we have no idea of what life is going to throw in our way. We may have a goal, but we may have no actual way of getting there. We may have a map, but that's no guarantee the landscape is going to match. And acknowledging those facts, embracing our insecurity, and giving ourselves the time to be cautious are all important.

And we're not training our kids to learn how to have a willingness to be wrong. We're teaching them that there's right and wrong and you always want to be on the side of right. We've associated being right with righteousness. The person who is right should be given the authority. They know what to do. They're right.

This time.

But, as I've mentioned before, success isn't a straight line, and success isn't a destination either. It's not like you become successful and stay successful, never making another mistake again for the rest of your life. We can't hold on to success any more than we can always be right. And yet, these are the expectations and heroes that we parade around. These are the stories of rags to riches that we eat up with a spoon. S/He made it to the top and lived happily ever after. On the flip side, we have the shaming "s/he never really amounted to anything..." and "s/he never really did much with their lives...." We put such enormous pressure on ourselves, and we can be so mean to ourselves when we fall short.

I say let's put away the abuse and self-abuse and let ourselves be okay with our not-knowings. It's okay to be unsure. It's okay to be cautious. It's okay to dip your foot in to see if the bath water is too hot. It's okay to have to take time to figure things out. It's okay to need time to figure things out. In that time, it is appropriate to feel insecure. That is a perfectly reasonable response to not knowing something. It's not bad to realize our own limitations. To be limited is to be human. We give a patience to ourselves and others as an act of acceptance and forgiveness of our limits.

Edited by Brigg Badlwin

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