Patience – Virtue or Vice?

could use some patience, yeah
gotta have some patience, yeah
all it takes is patience,
just a little patience
is all you need 

Guns and Roses, Patience

Patience has never been my strong suit.

Apparently patience can be learned.  Even though universe constantly puts me in situations that require patience, I’m loathe to learn it.

Or so the saying goes….

Google “patience” and you’ll find lots of airy fairy sayings about patience.  There are so many sayings about patience that clearly I’m not the only one that needs to learn.  Gandhi, Eckhart Tolle and even Axel Rose have weighed in on the subject.

Patience is one of the seven heavenly virtues that Christians are supposed to cultivate.  Well 4 or 5 out of seven, ain’t bad.

If patience is a virtue…

There are some things for which patience is both necessary and worth having.

Sunrises / Sunsets

Sunrises and sunsets cannot be rushed or commanded to occur.  You just have to sit back and let it happen.  If you are waiting for either of these events, chances are you have decided to relax, turn off the electronics and just enjoy the moment.


A proper croissant, the kind that is so flaky and buttery that you will be covered in flaky goodness, requires lots of patience.  Right from chilling the butter, rolling the dough, waiting, rolling the dough, then proofing the croissant before baking, the process requires herculean patience.  The process cannot be rushed if you want croissant perfection.  You’ve tasted the sad excuses for croissant that some coffee shops sell.  They are more like bagels than croissant.  Which is why I spend a little extra and buy it from some who has the patience to do it right.

Queen of the Night blooming

When I was 13, my aunt gave me a cutting of a rare Caribbean cactus.  She described the plant and the mythic bloom that comes

Aristotle on Patience

Aristotle on Patience

but once a year.  It blooms for just one night.  She and my grandmother would drop everything and spend the evening watching the bloom unfold and then slowly fade.

My cactus didn’t bloom for many years, almost 20 in fact.  But then, one year, a strange furry bulge appeared on one limb and slowly, very slowly, started to stretch until eventually the bloom arrived.  Now that the cactus is a mature plant, it blooms often.  I don’t have the patience to sit up ALL night to watch it bloom and fade but I manage to sit for 5 minute intervals throughout the evening to watch the splendor of the blossom unfold.  I even get up in the middle of the night to see it one last time before it falls.

A Child

There is no way around it.  When you’re pregnant, you just have to wait AND you do want to wait.  If your precious bundle of joy comes too early, it’s a bit scary.  Mind you, even if you carry your child to full term, there’s a whole lot of anxiety around when the dumpling will arrive.  But it happens when it happens and no one can predict when.  Patience is not optional.

When it ain’t a virtue….

Not surprisingly, my list of cases where patience is a highly overrated virtue is longer.

Patience is hard

Patience is hard when dealing with morons

I have no patience for stupid, self-absorbed people doing stupid things.  It comes down to people thinking that they are so important that interfering with other people is just collateral damage.    Part of me just wants to give these people a quick shove and save humanity some pain.

Here is a partial list:

  • People who stand in the exit doorway on a bus or train so no one can get off.
  • People who stroll along, in the middle of the sidewalk, yet somehow take up the whole sidewalk, weaving to and fro so you can’t pass.
  • People who text and walk on the way to the bus, morning commute, walking down stairs, etc., particularly when they just stop in the middle of everything.  Stop, move to the side, and let the rest of us get on with it.


When I go to the Farmer’s market, there is a very good cheese maker that I will exercise my patience to purchase from.  The lineup is always long and takes forever.  The 2 ladies behind the desk are very nice but unorganized and slower than molasses in January.   It takes everything in me to not yell, “Oh could we please just get on with it!”

And then there is that person, the one who waited for ½ hour and when the she gets to the front of the line suddenly doesn’t

Hurry up

Hurry Up!

know what she wants!  How can you not know – you had half a bloody hour to decide?!?!

Then come the questions, “Oh, can I try that one?  What’s that taste like?  Do you have yoghurt – no I think I’ll have the goat milk instead.  Can you show me how 100 gm looks like?  Oh, I don’t have credit card, can I count out 10 years’ worth of change in payment?

It’s moments like this that I can actually feel my blood pressure go up.

Lesson Learned?

Actual Patience

Actual Patience – I have enough opportunities, thanks.

Will I ever be the patience queen?  No, but I have learned to take a deep breath and practice patience.

There are still situations where my patience deserts me and I have to say something.  But I have learned to be more diplomatic when I do say something.  Surely that’s got to be a kinda virtue?

The last word on patience goes to Laurell Hamilton:

“Patience is a virtue, but there comes a moment when you must stop being patient and take the day by the throat and shake it. If it fights back; fine. I’d rather end up bloody at the end of the day, than unhurt with no progress made, no knowledge gained. I’d rather have a no, then nothing. I’d forgotten that about myself.”

Stupid People

Let’s remove those labels

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