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Is it still a virtue?

Have we really lost our ability to be patient? Or more accurately, do we no longer place a high value on the ability to be patient? After all…

“Who has time in a world that doesn’t want to wait?”

As a patient man I find myself in a perennial swim against the tide. It feels like I’m always trying to slow down the wheels of time because they are going too fast whereas others are trying to speed them up to in order to reach their destination faster – only to find they made a wrong turn or they had an accident along the way.

It seems people don’t have patience anymore; understanding that things take time, things require sacrifice, there will be setbacks along the way and occasionally we need to down tools, collect our thoughts and recharge. Communicating an understanding to our fellow humans also requires an amount of patience, perhaps even more nowadays. Essentially, a lot of my recent topics I have written about have elements of patience and its worth woven into them (please consider reading them, I won’t be labouring their points in this post).

“I know it is easy and convenient to value something you’re good at, but I think the benefits of patience are self-evident.”

Nevertheless, let’s examine why people aren’t patient or do not value patience. I think one of the main reasons why people are not patient or have a reduced capacity for patience is – and I know everyone is sick and tired of talking about it – the Covid-19 global pandemic. Modern people aren’t used to having their lives disrupted for this long and very much don’t like being inconvenienced or prevented from doing things, thus their patience has been well and truly tested – some beyond breaking point – and this is partly why you see people not adhering to lockdown rules.

Another main reason why people don’t believe in patience is because we live in a society which actively tells people not to be patient (and that they don’t have to be). So, why be patient if it doesn’t feel like you have to be? I think the more optimal question is, when is it good to be patient and when is it not, and this requires significant contextual information and ethical deliberation – it’s not an impulsive decision-making process, even if the act itself may appear lacking in patience.

In addition, I think some people feel they’ve been waiting long enough and that more immediate actions and outcomes are required – which is what I believe fundamentally drives most activism we see today. Furthermore, people don’t want to be patient when developing and improving their physical health (or mental health for that matter). There’s also a reason why the saying “everyone is out to make a quick buck” never goes out of fashion.

Modern society is heavily impulse driven and there’s something there for every impulse. In the land of “5-minute abs” and “overnight millionaires”, small wonder people find it difficult to be patient and resist temptation.

The truth of the matter is that there are no 5-min abs. It’s more likely 5 years of blood, sweat and tears. The overnight success story has probably been at it for a decade or more. And the short-term high-yield investment return is probably a Prince of Nigeria scam.

Obviously, the Goddess of Fortune does shine on some people and not on others, thus underlying the somewhat arbitrary nature of life, but ideally patience is well-served in the long run by those who know its worth. “Fools rush in”, after all.

So, at the end of the day, is patience still a virtue? Being patient and erring on the side of caution has served us well from an evolutionary perspective, but so has not resting on our laurels. It’s not so much whether patience is something of value, that as I said before, I believe to be self-evident. It is HOW LONG should I be patient for. Have I been patient enough? And only you can answer that question.

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