There are a number of phrases you never hear anymore. They include, “not in front of the ladies”, “it’s a free country” and “patience is a virtue”. The last is a phrase every Christian parent would be expected to say to their child at some point. In the Christian tradition there are the four cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, temperance, and fortitude and the three theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity. The better known and perhaps more easily stood virtues are those that stand in opposition to the seven deadly sins. Those virtues are chastity, temperance, charity, diligence, kindness, patience and humility. All of these virtues are falling out of fashion, but patience in particular is in very short supply.
I offer the following by way of example. One morning while dropping my daughter off at school a woman in a very, very expensive 4×4 car broke down. This was obviously very annoying to the drivers around her who started repeatedly honking their horns. Then the woman with the broken down car (who was also mother) got into a swearing and shouting match with another middle-aged woman, whom the mother thought was giving her a “dirty look”.
The mother in the broken-down car must have had her children with her because she was swearing that she too was in a rush and very busy as she “had to drop her children off to nursery”. Perhaps I am wrong, but I doubt fifty years ago you would find two middle-aged, middle-class women shouting and swearing at each other at the tops of their voices in front of young children going to school in a very middle-class neighbourhood.
So, I asked myself, what happened to the virtue of patience? I admit I can be very impatient myself, and I know I am not alone. In these times of being able to have almost anything delivered to our doors, of being able to watch the entire series of a programme in one sitting, back to back, we have become more impatient than ever before. In fact, I believe these technological miracles, these high-speed wonders, are in large part to blame and have made the job more difficult for our guardian angels.
On the occasion I order things for my children on Amazon, it annoys me when they ask “when will it come?” “Tomorrow,” I reply – which seems far too long a wait for them. I spend much of my time explaining how things were when I was young (the olden days). That to get something you had to actually get in a car, park, go to a shop and purchase the item that you wanted. Or even more outrageously, you watched one episode of your favourite programme (with ads) and then when that finished, usually with a cliffhanger, you had to wait an entire week to see the next episode. This causes gasps of bewilderment. Further, if you were not in front of the TV at the given time and you missed the next episode – you missed it. There was no replay, you couldn’t catch up on iplayer, you either found out about it from your friends, or you pieced together what happened from the next episode a whole week later. This for my children is difficult to understand, perhaps even deemed a breach of human rights by them.
But despite growing up in a different world, the adults are no better. Indeed I would argue they are even less patient than their children. As the travel and holiday season is upon us, how many adults will lose their patience with their spouse or children while waiting in the passport queue? How many will feel their tempers rise as they wait in security? Most will hold it together, many will not.
Patience is one of the Christian virtues fast becoming obsolete. Yet an impatient person is a very unattractive one for they are telling you that they believe, deep down, that their time is more important than that of the person they are waiting on. Or perhaps the impatient person has not left enough time to complete their task or journey making everyone else pay for it. “How dare you stick to the speed limit” they are telling you as they tailgate you, or honk their horn, or glare at you as they drive by. Don’t you know who I am, how important I am and that I have a Very Important Thing to do?
Impatience with children is commonplace. Parents leave less and less time for their children to get adjusted to a new place, to tie their laces or get their bags. Indeed, sometimes the children are at fault, but not when it comes to very young children. They are so often denied the time they need to gather themselves, their things and get going to whatever Important Place it is the parents need to get to.
So, we must try to be more patient with our children. In fact, I doubt I could get through the day without saying a prayer to St Monica, mother of St Augustine and patron saint of Patience, and to me the patron saint of difficult sons. I have a difficult son of my own, so I pray to her frequently.
Finally, when considering all the virtues, we know these can only grow out of habit, and habit is something we do frequently. These virtues have to be cultivated by repeated training and guidance of children. This is why I laughed when I heard politicians and commentators express surprise that Boris Johnson had not – surprise, surprise – become more disciplined once he assumed the office of Prime Minister, something he had wanted all his life.
But dear commentator, discipline is not something you can turn off and on like a tap. It is something you must have worked on and refined your entire life. If you have been ill-disciplined your entire life it is very unlikely that you will just transform into a person of humility and temperance. These virtues must be earned over the decades, they are not something given to you by way of popular vote.
In sum, dear reader, I wish you happy, calm and peaceful travels this summer, blessed with the virtue of patience for our fellow man.
Laura Perrins is the co-founder and co-editor of The Conservative Woman
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