Make Patience Normal

Written By: John Norlin

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At CharacterStrong we focus on teaching what we call the 8 Essentials. These are eight different character traits that include patience, kindness, humility, respect, selflessness, forgiveness, honesty, and commitment. Over the course of the year I will be writing on each of these character traits more in depth. With each post I will breakdown the character trait and provide practical ways in which to make that trait more normal in your life. This week my focus is on patience.

To make patience more normal we need to first understand that it is more than just waiting in line or allowing someone else to talk first. The root of patience is pati, coming from the Latin word patientia, meaning "suffering”. In fact, in Latin, the word pati means to suffer or pain. In a society that pushes the message in Western Culture that it is all about me, it makes sense that patience would be connected with the word suffering. It could easily feel like suffering to intentionally choose against your urge and or impulse for personal gain or attention. In our CharacterStrong curricula, we teach students and educators that patience is head (values), over heart (emotions). This means that anytime that you choose to be the person you want to be and live by your values, over what you feel in a moment, that is patience. We define patience as, “to show self-control or impulse control”. Quoting one of our favorite authors James C. Hunter who wrote an amazing book on servant-leadership titled, The Servant: A simple story about the true essence of leadership, “Patience and self-control are about being consistent and predictable in mood and actions”.

Some key questions to ask yourself connected to patience are:

  1. Are you a safe person?

  2. Are you easy to be with?

  3. Are you approachable?

  4. Can you handle contrary opinion?

  5. Can you handle criticism?

Patience and self-control are both choices and if we are going to develop the habit of patience we must learn to respond from our principles rather than our urges in order for us to be effective as leaders and in our personal relationships. It is interesting how with certain people we can be incredibly patient but with others have a short fuse. Why is that? Do we see them as more important. Either way it shows that patience is a choice.

Here are five ways that we can practice making patience normal in our lives:

  1. Each time you get a text or notification today, wait at least one minute before you check and respond.

  2. During a 24 hour period, each time someone speaks with you, stop what you are doing and give them your full attention.

  3. Intentionally start each day of the next week by choosing to treat the first person you meet with a smile and a positive greeting.

  4. For the next 24 hours each time that you pass through a door, instead of walking through, stop and see if anyone is coming and hold the door open for them.

  5. Intentionally put the focus on others today by asking them questions instead of talking about yourself.

We challenge you to be mindful and aware of your ability to be patient in key situations this week or with different people in your life. Remember, we all need character development, and that often times starts with being more aware of our choices and behaviors and working in small ways to continuously fight the battle between who we know we want to be, and what our emotions and urges pull us to do.


About the Author: John is a co-founder of CharacterStrong, a Servant Leadership trainer, and motivational speaker. He was Washington Advisor of the Year and taught 5 leadership classes per semester for 10 years at Sumner High School and was a Program Administrator for the Whole Child for five years.