The Deception of Patience

I facilitate a bimonthly Mindfulness group. During the meeting prior to Thanksgiving, I suggested that in addition to being mindful of the many blessings and things each group member felt thankful for, participants should call to mind something they needed to give up. Perhaps this might be an old way of thinking that no longer served them, a grudge that they harbored, a habit or negative behavior that it was time to let go of.

For me, the thing that came to mind was impatience. I have long recognized my own impatience and have worked on becoming more patient. People sometimes (not often enough) comment on how patient I am. I reply, “It’s an acquired trait and does not come naturally to me.” Admittedly, I have made progress on abandoning impatience, but I’m not there.

Or, maybe I am. This realization follows a Thanksgiving Friendship Bench exercise which started with a request to: “Write down something you need to let go of.” It seemed more than a coincidence that this was the very exercise I had already tasked myself with, and I conveniently already had an answer—impatience is what I need to let go of. Then, in a mindful sort of way, I asked myself:

Is letting go of impatience the act of grasping for patience, or is it letting go of both?

The answer I came up with, an epiphany of sorts, is that patience has a deceptive quality to it. We consider it as something desirable to have; this makes it an object of desire, something to strive to obtain. At their core, both impatience and patience are rooted in the future. They both focus on an outcome or circumstance that is not presently manifested in our lives. Mindfulness is all about focusing on the present moment. It seems to me that recognizing this present-centeredness requires abandoning both impatience and patience as two sides of the same coin. It seems a little paradoxical to claim that letting go of impatience simultaneously requires one to let go of patience. Yet, how can we truly center ourselves in the present moment by directing our thoughts on a future outcome?

I think of hope and fear in similar terms—two sides of the same coin. To say I am hoping for some desirable or positive outcome is just a sugar-coated way of saying I am fearful of an undesirable or negative outcome. Both hope and fear are rooted in future outcomes. I detailed this in a chapter in a book that I titled: “The Insufficiency of Hope.” I went on to point out that trust is a way to eliminate both hope and fear. With trust, a mindset rooted in the present, there is no place for hope or fear.

The same applies to both impatience and patience. With an attitude of trust, I find no place for either impatience or patience. This thought exercise brought me to a realization that letting go of impatience, required not working on being more patient but in having more trust. Furthermore, it is said that one of the characteristics of love is patience (Love is kind, love is patient, etc.) but this patience is not an object to be sought after, it is an emergent property of love itself and flows outward. The same can be said of trust, i.e., that patience emerges from being centered in trust.

I am no longer focused on acquiring more patience. With this new understanding, I want patience to emerge from trust and love. Should anyone comment on my impatience or my patience, I shall now answer, “I’m working on being more loving and more trusting.”

And, while I’m patiently waiting for all this to happen, I am acutely mindful of how this Thanksgiving exercise is something I am deeply grateful for.


Dr. Victor Acquista
Dr. Victor Acquista
Dr. Victor Acquista has become a successful international author and speaker following careers as a primary-care physician and medical executive. He is known for "Writing to Raise Consciousness." His current focus is on embodying a soul-centered presence and awareness in daily life.  His non-fiction and his workshops focus on personal growth and transformation, especially as pertains to health and wellness. His fiction includes social messaging intended to get the reader engaged in thought-provoking themes. He is the creator and narrator/host of a podcast series, Podfobler Productions. Dr. Acquista has a longstanding interest in consciousness studies, is a student of Integral Theory, and strives to do his part to make our planet a wee bit better. He lives with his wife in Florida. He is a member of the Authors Guild, the Mystery Writers of America, the International Thriller Writers, and the Florida Writers Association.

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  1. The reasoning seems plausible and interesting to me.
    I personally believe that patience is an ingredient for trust. Trust is a kind of long-term investment. It takes time, of course, but it’s the only possible way to counter the inevitable resignation to distrust.
    Especially with patience, we can use the little irritations that arise in our lives as wonderful confidence training opportunities.

    • Thank you, Aldo Delli Paoli, for sharing your thoughts. I agree, that patience can help to build trust; however, if the trust is there, patience is no longer an issue.
      As an aside, I think there are four foundations to ground our being: peace, gratitude, trust, and love. When any of these are where we center ourselves, they represent the context where the events and circumstances of our lives occur. This content does not matter and will not shake the foundations but it is often what people latch onto. Little irritations and annoyances are content. Content is never foundational. We can never ground our being there, but we can make a big deal of it. We can also learn from the content and why it should not be mistaken for context. This is why, in my opinion, practicing patience when dealing with the content of our lives can help us to discover trust as a solid foundation.