By Mario and Paola Martinez
Without love, I am nothing: love is patient. “Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains.” (James 5:7-11).
Patience is something we pray for on a regular basis. It is one of the things that is often discussed in family life: being patient with each other as spouses or with the children as they grow and learn their place in this world. We each may have our perspective on what patience is. Saint Paul tells us that love is patient. (1 Corinthians 14:4). In Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis clarifies that in an interpersonal relationship, being patient “refers to the quality of one who does not act on impulse and avoids giving offense” (Amories Laetitia, AL, # 91). Patience can also be defined as waiting for a greater good and avoiding instant gratification. Suppose you want to get a new toaster. You are given the option to purchase the current model or wait a couple of months for the next model with all the new and improved functions. A patient person would wait.
Studies have shown that the virtue of patience predicts positive life outcomes such as long-term professional success, health, wealth, reduced risky behavior, and family life well-being. Patience is often related to stronger self-control. And indeed, an individual’s ability to resist an immediate reward through self-control permits them to be patient. However, the decision to delay gratification might not only depend on self-control.
If patience were only driven by self-control, a person who really likes toast may be highly tempted to buy the current toaster model, compared to someone that cares less for toast and would wait for the new model to be available in a couple of months. However, it is more likely that a person who really likes toast would be more willing to wait for the next upgraded model. Studies indicate that liking something increases the motivation to obtain the best. At the same time, it increases the perceived difference in value of the object, distinguishing between a quicker and cheaper option, and a slower yet better quality option. Therefore, people who genuinely like toast are more likely to believe that a toaster’s latest model is worth waiting for.
How is it that we can grow in patience? We may start with the small things (Luke 16:10). We ought to improve our patience by reminding ourselves why we like what we are waiting for. More profoundly, by reminding ourselves why we love the other person, not acting on impulse and giving offense.
There are many opportunities to practice many of the virtues, including patience, that may help us nourish our relationships. This year, National Marriage Week will be observed from February 7th to the 14th and World Marriage Day is Sunday, February 14th. Every year, the focus is on building a culture of life and love that begins with supporting and promoting marriage and the family. The theme for 2021 is, “To Have, To Hold, To Honor.” For more information, visit www.SBMarriageInititve.org.
Mario and Paola Martinez are co-directors of the Office of Marriage and Family Life Ministries in the Diocese of San Bernardino.