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Love is Patient
St Paul places “love is patient” way ahead of all other virtues like kindness, compassion, courtesy, generosity and humility. Why does St Paul stress that patience is the first and foremost definition of love? Has St Paul got it all wrong? Is love possible without patience? Is patience all that important?
In our fast paced modern life, we have to complete our projects ahead of competitors. We carry this behavior trait back to our family and we are impatient when we do not get our way. We expect our spouse to cater to us immediately after one reminder or two. When we don’t get what we want and at the time desired, we become irritated or angry. But being patient means allowing, accommodating and accepting the other person’s ideas, values, personality and mannerism. So we need to constantly remind ourselves: “Am I loving when I don’t accommodate my spouse’s ways? Do I show love when I don’t accept my spouse’s point of view?” We know for certain that we do not practice love at that particular moment since a loving heart is a patient heart.
Little things inevitably happen in our lives and in our homes. Misunderstanding and conflict come to every home. During such moments, we get angry and sulk. We need to constantly ask: Am I patient when I am easily irritated? Am I patient when I show a dirty face? Am I patient when I nag often? Often, we tend to blame: Why must I suffer the hurt and tantrum? Why should I bear the injury? Why must I endure the accusation? Why should I accept the slight? But, for any family relationship to flourish we need patience to humbly resolve the conflict. And, being patient means I have to accept, bear, endure, over-look, tolerate and suffer the tantrums, slights, shortcomings, blame, accusation, injuries and hurts, without retaliation. Thus we must regularly ask: “Am I spending time to patiently cultivate the family relationship? Have I been patient to grow our relationship? Do I neglect to improve our relationship because I am impatient? After all, patience with a trying individual is an expression of our love for God put into practice here and now.
It is funny but true that most of us don’t realize that we show our love by being patient.
So how do we cultivate this most vital definition of love by St Paul? In order to be able to develop this loving patience we have to learn to forgive readily and endlessly. As Mother Teresa said, “if we really want to love, we must learn to forgive before anything else.” (One heart full of love, 113) “We must make our homes centers of compassion and forgive endlessly.” (“A Gift for God”, 18) St Paul says, “Be tolerant with one another and forgive one another whenever any one of you has a complaint against someone else.”(Colossians 3:13)
The passages below are taken from the book, “Our Lady says: Love People” by Rev. Albert Joseph Mary Shamon.
Love Is Patient (1 Corinthians. 13:4)
The Greek word Paul uses for patience is makrothumei. This word means patience with people, not patience with circumstances, like sickness, poverty, or death.
Paul was writing to the Corinthians—--to people who needed to have patience with other people. Therefore, to his classic description of love, we can add a preposition plus people to each of his 14 descriptive words for love. Thus, love is patient—--with people; love is kind—--to people; love is not jealous—--of people, etc.
Charlie Brown once said: “Mankind I love; people I hate.” But it is people we have to contend with. When people get close together, there is bound to be personality friction, for no two persons are alike. Rub two pieces of wood together, and you will have fire. Put people together under the same roof, in the same office or in the same parish or in the same house, like husband and wife, parents and children, and you will have plenty of fuel for a good fight.
A feuding married couple went to a priest for counseling. The priest sat at his desk, and the couple sat opposite him, and a cat and dog sat placidly by the desk. When the priest had finished his counseling, he concluded with these words: “Joe and Mary, why can’t you get along like this cat and dog?” Joe quipped, “Father, tie them together and see how long they’ll stay that way.”
As cars need a lubricant to keep parts that rub against other parts, like the pistons in the motor, from freezing fast, so people need a lubricant to keep them living smoothly together. That lubricant is the virtue of patience.
Our blessed Lord asked us to imitate His patience. “Learn from me,” He said, “for I am gentle and humble of heart” (Matt. 11:29). Our Lord, as far as we know, never had any physical ailments. He did not have to put up with bodily sickness. But He had to put up with people.
People afflict us in two different ways: some afflict us unwittingly, and some afflict us by their behavior. I often think of how hard it must have been for Our Lord to have had only the apostles for companions. He was the Word of God, divine intelligence. They were illiterate fisherman; goodwilled, indeed, but often so obtuse when it came to understanding Him. Right up to the night before He died, He did not seem to get through to them. To Philip He said, “After I have been with you all this time, you still do not know me?” (John 14:9). The same misunderstanding surfaced again after the Last Supper when He was talking to them about their mission, So, with divine patience, Jesus finally says, “Enough” (Luke 22:38). Always, He was so gentle with them, for “love is patient.”
How often we may have thought that the people around us are stupid or do stupid things. Have you ever said, “He or she drives me up a wall!” “He or she means well, but they get on my nerves.” Or you complain, “Why they would make holy Job lose his patience.” You are really losing yours when you so think.
Then there are other people who afflict us just by their behavior. They are arrogant, self-righteous, judgmental, like the Pharisee in the parable of the Pharisee and the tax-collector (Luke 18:9-14). They look down on others, are snobbish, condemn others, spurn them, speak evil against them. That was the way most scribes and Pharisees treated Jesus.
He could have hit back, but He did not. And that is what patience really is.
Patience means accepting, enduring, suffering (that is where the word came from: patiens means “suffering”) the slights, injuries, hurts inflicted by people—--suffering them for the love of God.
What makes patience a virtue is its motive: love of God. “Love is patient,” that is, true Christian patience has to be an expression of love, of love of God.
A salesman puts up with all kinds of abuse—--just to make a sale.
Indians used to endure frightful tortures—--just to become “a brave,”
Stoics suppressed their feelings—--just to be considered “manly.”
Such endurance may be laudable, but it is not necessarily virtuous.
“Love is patient,” that is, true patience must be an expression of love, of love of God. It is that motive which makes all endurance a virtue. It is not what we do that counts, but why; not the mountains we move, but the motives that impel us to move them.
True Christian patience puts up with others just as God puts up with us. He lets His sun shine on good and bad alike and His rain fall on the just and the unjust. (Matthew 5:45). With God there is no favoritism (Romans 2:11).
Christian love must be like that. God loves all and always has their highest good at heart. Our Lady at Medjugorje repeatedly answered, when asked about her love for a particular people or nation, that she is the Mother of all and loves all and wills the salvation of all peoples. Christian patience must be like that—--an expression of a love that is Godlike and Marylike,
We need patience just to survive—--for people are people. Some will be inconsiderate, some will be downright mean and selfish. And we shall inevitably run into such people. Their meanness and inconsideration could make us sad, depressed or discouraged. If we let that happen, life for us will come to a standstill. ‘‘Sorrow,” said Paul, “brings death” (2 Corinthians 7:10). Sirach said it does no good to yield to it (30:23). Shakespeare called sorrow the enemy of life.
Patience, on the contrary, does not just endure hurts and injuries; rather it embraces them with love and so sucks out the venom in them. Instead of sorrow, there is joy—--joy in knowing that evil has been turned into good.
Without patience we will not survive in life. I remember flying from Chicago to Kansas City one summer. It was the bumpiest ride I ever had. The wings flapped like a seal before breakfast. I thought the plane would fall apart. Later, I learned that elasticity had been built into the wings on purpose. Had the wings been rigid and inflexible, the sudden stresses and strains from wind and air pockets would have snapped them.
On their drawing boards, engineers call this give and take “tolerance.” Tolerance is the amount of stress a wing can take before it snaps.
What engineers build into the cold end of an aluminum wing, we must build into our hearts. How many homes have been broken up, because there is no tolerance—--no give or take, no patience.
Aesop has a fable titled, “The Oak and the Reed.” In a mighty storm the proud Oak said, “I will not bend before the wind.” Then a sudden strong gust of wind came and uprooted the unbending Oak. As the Oak lay prostrate on the ground, it saw a tiny reed swaying in the storm. The Oak asked, “How is it that I who am so mighty have been uprooted, whereas you who are so frail still stand in the storm?’’ The Reed answered, ‘‘I give in a little to the wind.” How often just to give in, to say, “I’m sorry,” has saved many a relationship.
Patience is not weakness; it is not becoming a door mat. It is an experience of such great love that it wins over people. No person ever treated Abraham Lincoln with greater contempt than Edwin Stanton. He called Lincoln a “low cunning clown.” He nicknamed him “the original gorilla.” Lincoln said nothing. Instead, when he needed a Secretary of War, Lincoln appointed Stanton, because he was the best man for the job. He treated Stanton with every courtesy.
The years wore on. The night came when Lincoln was assassinated. The body of the murdered President was taken to a little room. That night, Stanton looked down on the face of Lincoln in all its ruggedness; and, through tears, Stanton said: “There lies the greatest ruler of men the world has ever seen.” The patience of love had conquered in the end.
It is only patience that will help people become better than they are and make us better than we are.
Like the shaft of water hitting the turbines at Niagara making them move, so love not striking back moves people toward God and toward one another.
I do not want
The bravery of those
Who, gun in hand,
Rush forth to slay their foes.
Not hatred, greed,
Or glory of conquest,
Would I find rooted
In my human breast.
But this, 0 God, I ask:
“Please make me strong
To offer love to those
Who do me wrong.” (5-10)
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