Patience is a virtue, but nowhere in scripture are we told to be tolerant of sin. The same holds true for behaviors that are unwise, unhealthy, or misguided. In relationships, especially with our beloved and our family, we struggle between patience and tolerance. We get impatient, and we often try to cure this by tolerating whatever is testing our patience.
The real cure is an active relationship with the Holy Spirit. Patience is a fruit of the Spirit.
Think of the toddler who misbehaves. We teach him how to be a good boy, not by our words as much as by the action we take in response. Is it impatience that drives our response, or is it intolerance of the bad behavior? If it’s impatience, and if we improve ourselves by becoming more patient, the child seeks a new way to test our patience. But if it’s intolerance, we draw the line between what is right and what is wrong, firmly and consistently, and the child learns to respect the limitation.
Now think of the last thing your sweetheart did that tested your patience. To love like Christ is to respond with patience, but not with tolerance. Tolerance makes us look away — and then nothing gets resolved or improved. Patience needs to be combined with “no, this is not right” or “please stop, let’s pray about this before we discuss it further” or whatever response from us draws a line between right and wrong, holy and sinful, wise and unhealthy.
Patience gives us strength to draw the line calmly, compassionately, lovingly. Often, this is supernatural. We need to rely on the Holy Spirit by drawing our own line between reacting and stopping to pray before we respond. And we might have to remove ourselves from the room to do this. Bathrooms make great prayer rooms!
Toddlers are happier when they know their limits and feel protected from whatever lies beyond. We never outgrow this, though we try. Perhaps our sweetheart is testing our patience as proof that we really, truly love him/her no matter what. (Perhaps we test our sweetheart’s love, too!) The words, spoken patiently, “no, I’m sorry, we can’t continue this conversation until we’ve both calmed down,” is true love.
- When my beloved gets impatient with me, what am I really seeking most at that moment?
- How can I communicate the answer to that, in a way that diffuses the problem and reassures me that I am loved?
Strengthen the relationship:
Pray together, asking the Holy Spirit for the ability to grow in patience and the wisdom to know when to draw a line of intolerance. Then each of you share one behavior of your own (for example, a bad habit) that you wish you could bring into better self-control. Share how you feel when you’ve gone too far. What word(s) or signal will you give your beloved permission to use as a helpful reminder that you are loved but the limit has been reached?
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© 2018 by Terry Modica of Good News Ministries
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