Did You Lose Patience Over The Holidays?
I am throughly enjoying having my daughter home from college. The four of us took a last minute holiday out of town for a night, went to the movies on Christmas, and have enjoyed watching the Marvelous Mrs Maisel Season 2. We have generally enjoyed being together, except for when things got a bit… testy. Two teens and two fifty-somethings with strong opinions – lets just say things got heated a few times. Nothing to send us to family therapy, but …
A few times I got mad at someone else. Sometimes I lost my Patience and said something, which threw gas on the fire. Other times I found my Patience and stayed silent. What did those two situations have in common? I was challenged and upset each time.
There is this misconception that being patient means staying calm. This is not correct. Mussar teaches that when we are calm, we don’t need Patience. We only need Patience when we are challenged; when we are in discomfort of some kind. When we lose Patience, we act out and lose control.
Recently, I was talking to a student, another Mussar father, about what it is like to stay Patient when triggered by a family member. I’ll relate it here.
Imagine you and a family member are both standing in the kitchen. They are saying and doing things that push your buttons. They are not attacking you, just saying and doing things that really bother you. You want to tell them to stop; you want to walk out of the room; to throw up your hands in exasperation; to roll your eyes; to look away; to grimace; to say “what’s the big deal”…
Instead, you stand there, maintaining eye contact and just listen. Your heart is pounding, and you feel a rising panic. Inside, you are saying to yourself:
This sucks. This totally sucks. Don’t leave. Don’t say anything. Just stay quiet. This totally sucks. Just hang in there, it will be over soon. I don’t know how much longer I can take this…
You get the idea. There was no super bliss. In fact, I was suffering more staying silent than I would have been if I had acted out.
Let me be clear: This does not come naturally to me. A few years ago I would have thrown more gas on the fire again and again. The only reason I acted differently this time is my Mussar practice.
The Hebrew word for the soul trait of Patience is Savlanut, which shares a root for the word to “bear a burden.” Patience, then is really about bearing the burden of an uncomfortable situation until it is over. It is bearing with suffering until it passes.
This brings us to a Mussar practice we can try.
*****************Heres the Mussar Practice For When You Lose Patience*******************
Remember that this too shall pass. Each morning, as part of our Mussar practice, we recite a mantra. The mantra I wrote for Patience is “This too shall pass, and I have the strength to get by until it does.”
Rabbi Ira stone teaches a lesson from the mussar master Rabbi Simcha Zissel Ziv: “Bearing the burden of the other” is our primary task as people who practice Mussar.
In the example above, I was bearing the burden of listening, which is the bare minimum way to show up in a menchy way.
I practiced Silence and did not make the situation worse. I could have done better by practicing Compassion, and willingly jumped in with empathy for the pain of the other person. I might better have been able to give comfort and helped them more actively. Then again, trying to solve the problem for the other person isn’t always the right thing to do. It is very hard not to try to fix a relative or loved one. Sometimes we just need to ride it out. And when riding it out, it is super helpful to remember that this too shall pass.”
Sometimes the holidays bring us together with that relative we just don’t get along with. As much as we wish it were different, the painful interaction just plays out again and again.
This too shall pass. January 2nd will come, and you can get back to the routine of life. Accepting those feelings, and giving yourself a break is important. As the same time, you might want to take action and instead of bearing burden of the situation.
What are some self-care activities you can take to bring yourself some comfort?
Who can you reach out to to bring you some joy?
What can you do other than look at other people’s holiday posts on Facebook? No one posts the moments I write about above. They are part of the picture too.
Maybe you can track down a college friend you haven’t talked to in years, or find a Meetup group to join in January.
Where ever you are is ok. Your Divine spark is still there, ready to shine through when you can peak around your baggage, or slide it out of the way.
If this post resonates with you, check out the Humility and Patience Mussar Workshop that starts in January. This is exactly the type of issue we will be working on. We’ll all be creating spiritual action plans to help us take one small step towards balance. Each of us has the capacity to grow and do better. What would your life be like if you did not lose Patience?