Wednesday, February 17, 2010

It's a Virtue

Patience: that's what I need to develop these days.

Back in the day, when I was still making chain-mail for a living, I was told that I was one of the most patient people around. Well, that's definitely not the case any more. I wish I could say it was, but I'd only be deluding myself, and possibly you, dear Reader, and I don`t think it fair to try and pull a fast one on either of us.

It seems that my patience lessens when I write and increases when I work with my hands. This doesn't make sense to me, but it is what I have observed. Perhaps I should try to make more time for my artwork, but that's not too feasible yet.

My question for today is how can we develop our patience? There is certainly a lot within the Writings about patience, as there is about all the various virtues, but mostly it has to do with praising those who have shown patience. There is, also, a marvelous comment about the rewards of patience: He, verily, shall increase the reward of them that endure with patience.

But that still doesn't help me in my current dilemma: how do I increase my patience?

The reason, dear Reader, why this has come up is based on a few recent events in my life. First is the increasing impatience I am showing to my dear son. I have asked him to help remind me that I need to show patience toward him, and he is doing a marvelous job. I have a long way to go, but he has helped me make a start.

It also has to with a recent talk I gave. Two of us were asked to present an introduction to the Baha'i Faith to a group of people. I opened with a simple introdcution, based largely on the presentation in Ruhi Book 6, and then my friend gave a talk about the life of Baha'u'llah.

When she was talking, I was praying. I barely heard anything she said, as the prayers were being recited over and over in my mind for her to give a talk that would touch the hearts of the listeners. Every time she glanced over at me, I could see a bit of her nervousness melt away, as if she knew of the prayers I was saying. Of course, I'm sure she did, for I am certain that she was saying prayers for me when I was speaking. After all, that is just what we do, right? We pray for the one teaching and hope that they may become even more effective.

But then came the questions. Normally I do all right with the questions in that sort of a setting, but this time was different. Someone asked a fairly basic and simple question, and when I went to answer, there were a few Baha'is in the audience who seemed to want to jump up and answer. Their facial expressions, as I was responding, were conveying, "No, no. That's not right at all."

That was when I started to become impatient with them. That was when I became nervous and stumbled.

In fact, one of the questions was about how women and men are treated differently in the Baha'i Faith, and I completely forgot to mention that girls are given preferential treatment to boys in education. Isn't that the most obvious and beautiful example of how progressive the Faith is? If you have a boy and a girl, and can only afford to educate one of them, you must, by Baha'i Law, educate the girl.

I was so nervous, I completely missed that.

Now I'm confiding in you, dear Reader. I haven't expressed this to anyone else. I'm a bit ashamed at having been so nervous, and am really striving to show patience to those dear friends who really only wanted what they thought was best for the Faith.

And so I feel I need to develop my patience again.

It is interesting how important patience is. In the book, 'Abdu'l-Baha in London, we find the following testimony: "one of the Persians explained to me that it was on account of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's wonderful patience, helpfulness, and endurance that he was always called 'The Master'."

Three qualities are mentioned there: patience, helpfulness and endurance. Although I can always further develop my helpfulness and endurance, I think I do fairly well at those two. But patience, the first of the three, needs work. In fact, if you are helpful and have endurance, but don't show patience, you will really hurt those around you.

Baha'u'llah, in the Hidden Words, says, "The sign of love is fortitude under My decree and patience under My trials." When we show strength and courage in our obedience to the Law, despite all the myriad temptations, we are showing a sign of our love for God. And when we show patience during all the tests we may face, that is another sign of our love for God. That second only seems obvious, though. After all, how can you show patience if there isn't a trial or a test?

Does that mean that when I am not showing patience, I am not loving God? I don't think so. It means that I'm not showing my love for God, that's for sure. But I feel that I do still love God. It is sort of like if the sign for a shop falls down, the store is still there. It's just harder to find it.

There are a couple of other places in the Writings in which we find references to patience. In The Seven Valleys, we find that the steed in the Valley of Search "is patience; without patience the wayfarer on this journey will reach nowhere and attain no goal."

How does this apply to me, with my son or with those friends in the audience? If I wish to help my son grow in his virtues, develop to be the best person he can, then patience is essential. It is my example of patience that will help nurture him in his development. Impatience will only create a barrier between him and me, and probably turn him off to anything I may wish to say. I believe the same is true with those friends in the audience. If I wish to help them become better people, I need to acknowledge their desire for what they feel is the best for the Faith. I need to thank them for their concern and ask for their prayers next time. If I show impatience with them, all I will succeed in doing is alientaing them. This would do nothing but create anger and upset feelings. But if I admit my own shortcomings, perhaps they will pray for me next time. (Then again, they just might not ask me to speak again, which would also be ok. There are plenty of other ways to serve.)

The other times I often feel impatience is when I am faced with greed, or a perspective that completely denies the spiritual. Once again, the Master comes to my rescue: Especially to those whose thoughts are material and retrograde show the utmost love and patience, thereby winning them into the unity of fellowship by the radiance of your kindness. It is in situations such as these that we can use patience as a tool to help draw people closer to their Creator. Patience really is such a wonderful and marvelous tool.

But really, the main question for me is still how can I further develop my patience. In the following quote from the Kitab-i-Iqan, we read: Know verily that Knowledge is of two kinds: Divine and Satanic...The former bringeth forth the fruit of patience, of longing desire, of true understanding, and love; whilst the latter can yield naught but arrogance, vainglory and conceit.
Divine knowledge brings "forth the fruit of patience".

And doesn't that just make sense? When you know what the inevitable outcome must be, you are content to wait for it. It is only when you are unsure that you are impatient to see what the results will be.

It is like a seed. When you know that it will grow, you are content to give it the water and light it needs and just wait for it to develop. You know that you cannot rush it. If you dig it up to check on its growth, that will only kill it. Not a good thing to do.

I know that the Faith will grow. It is inevitable. The tree of faith always grows, blossoms, and gives its fruit. This is an immutable Law.

Some of the friends in the audience were afraid that my awkward, and possibly inapproriate, answer to a question was going to retard the growth of the Faith. All I can say to such a thought is that surely I am not that important as to have that kind of an effect.

I may not have spoken about the life of Baha'u'llah the way my friend did, but she did an admirable job. Could I have done better? Possibly, but why even go there. She was speaking and I gave her all the support I could.

Could someone have answered those questions better than I did? Of course. But I was the one on stage, and I did the best I could at the moment. In the future I hope the friends will pray for me as I speak, instead of judging.

It really made me realize how important it is to pray for those other speakers. It has also made me realize how important it is that I pray for the spiritual growth of those other friends. I should not have been made nervous by them. Really, there was no reason for it. I know what their concern was, but I should have had faith in my own intentions. I must show patience toward myself for becoming nervous, and try to do better in the future.

And so, dear Reader, I ask for your prayers, as usual. Could someone else write this blog better than I can? Of course. But I happen to be the one doing it, and so I may make mistakes (as you have been kind enough to point out), and you have shown great patience in me.

Now I need to help show patience toward others, as well as myself.


  1. Mead, if you really want to develop patience there are two suggestions I have for you that made all the difference in my world. First, learn to breathe properly. Upper-chest breathing is what most people do all the time and it is WRONG. It keeps the muscles tense and deprives the body of adequate oxygen. You can do a google search and find descriptions of how to breathe correctly.

    Second, and by no means less important, is DO ART. If you don't allow your hands to express what is in your soul, how do you expect to stay centered enough to be patient? Art is not optional. It is prayer. It is communication. It is life. I'd rather live without furniture than without art supplies.

  2. Self reflection is an art, and to lay it bare as you have done takes a great deal of courage. I assure you, most people in the audience were quite GLAD it wasn't them on the stage, as the fear of public speaking for most people exceeds their fear of death. There are no rote responses appropriate for a Baha'i, as we are each called upon to independently search for the truth. The more you face questions, the more comfortable you will become with what answers people are really looking for. I would suggest the software package Heart to Heart as a good place to start, and the book Responding by Dale W. Eng gives some terrific guidance re: typcical questions and suggested answers which include readings from our Scripture. Don't be too hard on yourself! We all give you credit for putting yourself front and center! Truly a courageous act in itself! Thanks you!