We live in a vast world. We have a variety of opportunities to be a part of greatness but each day too many of us choose to fall short. Why is this so? For years, I’ve tried putting my finger on what is off with the world. I am positive there are many things, but when it comes down to the nitty-gritty of it, I find that most people have simply lost their sense of patience.
Why is it so important to be a patient person? Well, let us look at the definition of Patient: Able to remain calm and not become annoyed when waiting for a long period of time or when dealing with problems or difficult people. Done in a careful way over a long period time or without hurrying.
Does this describe anyone you know? I personally can’t think of many people in my life that fit this description at the moment. As a child, I could: teachers, my family, most friends, and complete strangers like the check-out lady, dry cleaner store owner, other drivers, etc…. It seemed many people were in my youth, but not so much now. Why?
My theory is that there was a combination of contributing factors that trained people to be more patient. It was around for generations but some aspects are now gone forever. For us older folks, many of us had the advantage of several of the following:
- Training (parenting techniques). A vast majority of us had stay-at-home moms who were constantly on us to use our manners, wait our turns and to stop and think before we react.
- Witnessing and participating with others in society. Before computers, people had to accomplish all of their errands and so on in person. Now so many interactions between people (or programs that eliminate any human interaction) happen online that the thresholds for tolerance for face-to-face communications shrink by the year.
- Then there were everyday tasks (conditioning) that now no longer exist (see first list below).
Over the course of history, until the last 15-20 years, life was filled with daily practices of learning and maintaining patience. In a way, I miss them. When I was younger, there were several tasks that taught me and others every day to wait, be patient without having our parents to remind us. We didn’t complain, or if we did, no one would listen because there simply wasn’t a quicker alternative.
- Telephone: Rotary phones, busy signals and no answering machines. Now this is an extreme example, but if I wanted to call a friend (and none of my family was using the phone already) whom I might have been mad at – dialing on a rotary phone made me wait at least a minute or two until I got through all seven numbers. Many times the rotating and waiting for it to process allowed me to think and change my mind about calling in a huff. What if I was still angry but a busy signal comes on? I simply had to wait and call again. Later if I tried again and someone answered but my friend wasn’t home, I’d leave a polite message. Then I waited for a returned phone call. By then, I was no longer upset. All of the aforementioned also happened when I simply wanted to talk to a friend.
- Letters. In order to communicate with friends and relatives, I had to write letters. Long distant phone calls were too expensive. So, I took the time to think about what I wanted to say. I handwrote each letter (sometimes several drafts because I wanted my handwriting to be neat), mailed it and then waited for a response. This took days.
- Photographs. One had to load the film, focus and then shoot. Then came the processing which people had to wait days (but later an hour or so) for the photos to be developed. Plus, film and processing cost money so we had to limit our subject matters.
- Television: Only had 3-4 TV channels to watch with little amount of programming that I enjoyed as a child. I had to wait until Saturday mornings to watch cartoons. Plus, I didn’t have a remote for most of my childhood, so I had to get up off the couch to turn the channel. (Cable was out by the time I was in high school, but my parents refused to get it.) We sat through commercials. I will admit that I hate sitting through commercials now, but before I just did it without complaint.
- Movies: When I was a teenager, we saw movies in the theatres and then had to wait a year or so from its theatrical release to rent a movie from the local video store. Sometimes we had to return several times if the movies were already rented by others. I simply learned to wait my turn.
- Comments or giving one’s opinion: People seemed to not share their opinions as much or have the plethora of platforms. If someone read an article in the newspaper or saw a report on TV, and they were passionate about it or had a reaction, they most likely wrote a letter and mailed it to the newspaper. I wonder how many letters didn’t get mailed once the individual thought about it because they had the time to think, even if it were a positive or negative response.
There are more tasks that I grew up with in the 70’s and the early 80’s that taught me to be patient and an understanding that things take time, and I am grateful for each and every one of them. Key phase here: Time to think. All the above gave people precious moments for consideration. There was a waiting period. Waiting or having time allows your thought process to go full circle.
Our lives now are filled with so much convenience and instant gratification because of technology that perhaps it hasn’t allowed us the time to think as much as we should be doing. Don’t misunderstand, technology, in many ways, has improved our lives tremendously. Just some of the daily tactics that taught many of us to slow down have disappeared. And unfortunately, today, so much now rests solely on parents to make sure their children learn how to stop and think. It is an overwhelming job that many just give up.
I am absolutely guilty of having days where my patience runs thin and in turn I do not have the energy. Plus, if I am the only one reminding them – kids soon tune it out. I wish my kids had more resources of witnessing and practicing patience without my guidance, but sadly our vast world has become a microcosm of impatient people and their behaviors (see second list below), and in some cases making it a form of entertainment (reality TV).
So, now let us just compare the past with the present, and how technology has taught us to be less patient, tolerant or not having the best filter to think before we act.
- Smart Phones: Now we have one button phone calling, texting and voicemail with phones attached to our hips. Ever leave or send any regrettable voicemails or texts in the heat of the moment? Or the worst part of the ease of technology: Texting while driving. People have been seriously hurt or killed because they weren’t patient enough to wait to text.
- Email: Now we have email and Instant Messaging. Do people put as much thought and care into personal emails as they did when they were pen pals or sending a birthday card? Do people still send birthday cards? Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy chatting with people, but I so miss receiving handwritten notes – thank you cards, birthday cards or letters. There is more meaning and value when someone takes the time to handwrite a few paragraphs and mails it, don’t you think?
- Photographs – one word: Instagram.
- Television: Now we have 24 hour TV access with 1000 channels and the ability to change what you are watching every two seconds, so you don’t concentrate on shows, movies or news sources for too long. And there are TV channels dedicated to cartoons and other kid-geared programming 24/7.
- Movies: Today, Netflix, YouTube, and VOD channels, etc… are sources that show movies, TV shows, web series and are all at your finger tips, instantly. And none of that really is that bad in terms of loss patience. We still have to wait for the movie’s release. However, when everything is so available, can it cheapen the experience or help ruin manners? Watching a movie in the cinema is supposed to be a communal experience but so many movie-goers treat cinemas as if it’s their living room and in turn aren’t respectful to others around…. My apologies, I had to share this pet-peeve of mine because I tolerate the rude movie-goers who talk on their phone or text because they simply couldn’t wait until the movie was complete.
- Comments: Today, the internet gives freedom to trolling, cyber bullying and people just being rude. Many of this is under the guise of anonymity. It is so rampant that I almost never read the comment sections anymore. It’s just filled with too many impatient, hateful and overly opinionated people who don’t think before they hit send. I read on many blogs and articles where they actually have to plead for people to be polite if they want to leave a comment.
The youth today aren’t receiving the same experiences we had to teach them a little extra patience. But we did, and we, as adults, are losing our grip on tolerance, manners, and above all, patience because of all this convenience and urgency to have what we want or have our say NOW. This is their educational time and children learn best by example. (And yes, I always go back to that commercial with the son and father about smoking pot: ‘I learned it from watching you!”) We really need to set better examples for them.
What if everyone had the capability to have a little more patience in everyday use of life today, especially in how we communicate? How different (better) would our world be? Would the above issues in the second list happen less frequently?
As a mother, patience is one of the virtues that I am trying to instill in my children. I wish I could I lean on society a little as my parents did. We all need to teach children (and remind ourselves) to wait, not to rush through things, not get so easily annoyed by others, and most importantly, think before we act/react.
Remember: Good things come to those who wait.