I am not a patient person.
When I walk somewhere, I walk fast. When I eat, I eat fast. If I eat out, I seek food that can be made quickly.
I am no Job. He was a wealthy fellow who had a startling adventure described in the Old Testament.
God allowed Satan to torment Job to test whether the always-pious fellow would turn away from God if misfortunes befell him. Basically, God bet on Job and Satan bet against him.
Job lost all his wealth in a day. He developed boils all over his body. His brothers falsely accused him of wrongdoing. All 10 of his children died.
His wife told him to give up and die.
Through it all, Job remained patient and pious, waiting for his fortunes to return to normal. Hence, we talk about having the patience of Job.
If we combine religion and science, we can look at an example of much greater patience. Scientists have found strong evidence that it took 13.8 billion years from the time when the universe burst into existence until humans began to roam the earth.
If God created the heavens and earth to showcase the humans created in his image, He showed incredible patience.
In Herman Hesse’s novel Siddhartha, the title character is asked what he can do. Siddhartha replies that he can think, he can wait, and he can fast.
I have long wanted to use that answer during a job interview, but I never had the nerve. Anyway, it would not be truthful if I say it.
Patience is not always a good thing though. When someone stops breathing in the emergency room, staff patience can be fatal.
When we want to accomplish something important, pushing ahead relentlessly is often a good strategy.
So we might say that patience is a virtue in some circumstances. Maybe even in most circumstances.
Recently, I tried to help an old fellow set up his laptop to use Skype for video calls to distant family members.
One complexity led to another, and the fellow told me a few times to give up the effort. But I stayed with the task. After an hour, I accomplished my mission.
Maybe I can muster patience when I need it to accomplish something. That is better than having no patience at all.
How about you? Do you have the patience of Job?
John Malouff is an Associate Professor at the School of Behavioural, Cognitive and Social Sciences, University of New England.