Posted by: Millard J. Melnyk | October 8, 2011


Most of my life, patience meant to me that I was supposed to slow down, that my sense of urgency was inappropriate, that I should lower my expectations, and that I should be satisfied with slow rates of progress. I’ve never been able to accept this.

My Mom used to smile and sing, “Slow down, you move to fast; You got to make the morning last!” as I’d race past her (from Simon & Garfunkel’s 59th Street Bridge Song). She knew it wouldn’t change anything, but she smiled and sang anyway. As I got older my compulsiveness didn’t wane, but my guilt over my “impatience” waxed with plenty of help. People have told me all my life how impatient I am.

Last night I realized a resolution to my conflict over patience. Some might call it a “middle way,” but I have found that middle ways just mitigate problems, not solve them. Middle ways are the results of compromise or tolerance; great aids for living with problems, but not for eliminating them. The best solutions don’t accommodate competing problematic factors, but instead reframe problems to eliminate the competition. Then problematic factors resolve easily, or they simply become irrelevant. Some call this “paradigm shift.” I prefer “context shift” and practice it all the time, not just with big problems.

I’ll weigh in after a half century of life and observation: I am certain that we need to speed up, that urgency is appropriate, that our expectations are far too low, and that our rates of progress aren’t clearly better than zero. Am I impatient? Yes, but the reason for it surprised me last night. Now I am more patient, for the same surprising reason.

Denying realities can mimic patience, right up to the point that denial becomes untenable and panic knocks the knock-off on its ass. Then it’s usually too late to speed up, for urgency to move us, to adjust our expectations, or to attempt further progress. We don’t often wake from our delusions until the last minutes of the twelfth hour. If we refuse to engage in denial, urgency and criticality compel us, often desperately.

The alternative to denial and compulsion is faith, but not the delusional, vacuous “faith” touted by the religious. Instead, real confidence: that we can speed up, that our urgent endeavors will succeed, that we are realizing our expectations, and that our rate of progress will not only outpace our self-destructive tendencies, but will bring heaven within reach rather than keep it on the “other side.” Funny thing about heaven, no matter what we think it consists of: it’s always on the other side of something.

Faith grounded in reality, born of experience, and confirmed by evidence is no fairy tale. Faith need not be delusional and vacuous. Science has taken us a step closer to real faith, but science alone can’t realize it. Faith in science as be-all and end-all is as delusional and vacuous a faith as its religious counterpart. Science gives us it probably will; beyond that, it speaks myths if it speaks at all. Science can’t touch it will for me; but that’s the confidence we need to act successfully. Without real confidence–real faith–life sinks to a series of relatively desperate dice rolls in a cosmic gamble, reducing us to hope in the magic of lucky breaks.

When you know that you are accelerating, that your efforts are succeeding, that your expectations are being met, and that you are progressing at a rate faster than you would have believed if someone had described it to you, faith for the future is easy. The natural result is patience. The alternatives are denial with a patience knock-off or compulsion with no patience at all. Neither is a solution. That was last night’s surprising realization. We need to speed up, but there’s no need to rush. Hurrying in fear that you’ll miss out or fail feels completely different than putting on speed because you want more, sooner. It is different.

The patience of faith is odd. It doesn’t spawn apathy, but fervor: a quiet, calm, intense assurance, untainted by desperation, suffused with gratitude and a longing for much more. This kind of patience is born of seeing the end from the beginning; not baseless assertion that what we feebly hope for will materialize, but a vision of what will and must come, no different than a vision of the rising sun while we sit in pre-dawn darkness, and every bit as certain.


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