Just earlier this week someone told me that “patience is a virtue.” I think they were looking for my affirmation of the sentiment because they assumed it is a biblical notion. It, however, is not. It falls into that category of sayings that people think are biblical- but are indeed not. Much like the old saying “God helps those who help themselves.” That is not something we should thank a prophet or Jesus for - we should be thanking Benjamin Franklin for that little piece of poor theology.
“Patience is a virtue” has a few possible places of origin. Some place it as being first written in The Canterbury Tales when Chaucer said “patience is a high virtue” in 1400 CE. But, 14 years earlier, William Langland wrote in his poem Piers Plowman that “patience is a fair virtue.” I suppose the question we need to ask is “which is it guys, fair or high?”
The other question to uncover addresses the sentiment of the quote … is patience actually a virtue? In this season of my life I would have to answer with a plain and authoritative “NO, it is not!” Though, there have been many other stages in my life where I found patience to be the greatest virtue I possessed. I think that this is a very contextual question and a quote that can feel both affirming at times and at others an awful attack on someone dwelling in the need for immediacy.
As we near our (hopeful) final corner in the adventure of regathering in person, I hope that we find time to press forward against this statement when necessary and to calmly dwell in it when patience is the most needed virtue. I suppose it is a lot like the Serenity Prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
courage to change the things I can,
and wisdom to know the difference.
Yours in Christ,