FaceBook LIVE – 12 June 2019.
SIVAN – PATIENCE AND PERSEVERANCE
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PATIENCE AND PERSEVERANCE
One of the first Hebrew words I needed to put into practice in Israel was savlanut – patience. There is much honking of horns in Israel (in fact whole conversations are engaged in by means of honking!), a trait that exhibits impatience on the roads. Also, boarding a bus can be a battle of elbows, and standing in line becomes a battle of wills, etc., etc! Certainly a good training ground for patience.
As the saying goes, “Patience is a virtue,” and is one we should aspire to cultivate with all our hearts. Why? Because, it not only benefits those around us but we also reap the rewards of both inner and outer peace. Many frustrating and challenging situations can rise up and confront us day by day. Sometimes it’s in small things, e.g., you’re in a rush to get somewhere and suddenly you realize that your car keys are not in their usual place. Each minute you search for them seems like an hour. All the awful repercussions of not finding them fill your mind in a tsunami of anxiety! Or maybe you have your schedule neatly planned for the day and you find yourself waiting to complete a transaction at the bank, or Post Office, or supermarket, wherever, and you realize there’s a holdup in the long line ahead of you with a picky customer and you are facing an extended delay!
Then there also are the bigger situations – for example, waiting at an airport to board a plane on your way to an important destination and an unexpected long delay is announced; or, maybe worse, you already are out on the runway and a technical hitch causes the plane to sit there for hours, sometimes with no service or air-conditioning.
When we find ourselves in difficult situations we did not choose and cannot control, our greatest tool for persevering through the challenge is patience. Another word for patience is long-suffering; meaning you are able to suffer the situation for an extended time and remain calm, peaceful, and level-headed. A good practice to remember if/when you find yourself in a testing situation and are forced to wait, is to avoid getting caught in negative reactivity and instead to fill the time with positive activity. Don’t simply stew over the situation, stop and take a few deep breaths. Sometimes just remembering to slow down and focus on your breathing does wonders. Take the delay time as an opportunity to rest and simply observe the details around you. In the headlong rush through our days we often do not take time to stop and “smell the roses.” You can also take the time to think over something you have been learning; or to just hum a tune!
If we give in to impatience it usually does not resolve the situation any faster or better. On the contrary, extended impatience invariably leads to anger and even rage and, if you cannot control the anger it can spiral out of control and can cause real damage to others as well as to yourself.
“A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but the slow to anger calms a dispute.”
Rabbi Menachem Mendel Leffin says: “Woe to the pampered one who has never been trained to be patient. Either today or in the future he/she is destined to sip from the cup of affliction.” (from Cheshbon ha’Nefesh – Accounting of the Soul)
PATIENCE IN BALANCE
As usual, with every middah, we need to be very aware of balance. We know the negative effects of impatience and acting too hastily, but simply to wait passively and fail to take action can be just as great an obstacle – physically and spiritually.
Frustration <—————————Patience———————————> Apathy
Aggravation Peace Indifference
Anger/rage Calm Passivity
Impatient people rationalize their reactions by blaming external causes. Those who fail to respond or take action call their passivity “patience”!
True patience is about taking responsibility. Being responsible for our emotions, for our responses to a situation, and for the actions we take. Then we will be able to calmly assess the situation and decide on what action to take. It always is a good opportunity to pray and to wait on the Lord for a solution.
I waited patiently for the Lord; He inclined to me and heard my cry. (Psalm 40:1)
We find a great biblical example of patience in the prophets. Consider their plight: Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Isaiah, Zechariah, etc., etc., all had clear visions either regarding the present or future. They knew they would never see their prophecies materialize in their lifetime. Also, the exhortations they had to deliver were, more often than not, rejected by the people and the corrupt leaders of the time. And yet they persevered, with long-suffering, knowing that the One who had called and spoken was faithful and true.
Consider other biblical figures – Jacob and Joseph, who could not act upon their visions and dreams but had to “store them in their heart” and not speak of them . Rather they patiently trusted HaShem to bring them to pass in His perfect way and timing. The same applies to Miriam, mother of Yeshua, and also to Joseph, who knew the truth and reality of the birth, calling, and purpose of Yeshua and yet they, too, needed to store the knowledge in their hearts and in faith wait upon God to unfold His eternal purposes.
PATIENCE AND HUMILITY
Walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
We see here a connection between patience and humility. Impatience and anger are a sign of pride; A concern that one’s ‘Self’ is not getting what it wants or deserves.The Ego loudly insists: “I” am being delayed! “My” plan is being interrupted! “I” don’t need this! The others concerned are not important. Instead, when all is not going your way, it helps to imagine yourself in the place of the other person – the store clerk, the other driver on the road, etc.. Steady yourself and stay calm, friendly, and encouraging. Persevere with your own burden and attempt to lighten theirs.
THE FRUIT OF GOOD MIDDOT / CHARACTER TRAITS
In the parable of the sower in Luke 8:15, Yeshua makes a connection with truly hearing the Word of God, then storing it in a heart that is honest and good from where, with patience and perseverance, the fruit of the spirit will grow.
To produce the fruit of good character traits, middot, in our lives is the central aim of Mussar – the aim that spurs us on to Keep Climbing! To constantly be growing and learning and becoming more holy and more whole. For what purpose? In order that slowly but surely, baby step after baby step, we will be removing any blockages that have accumulated (such as bad habits, tendencies and imbalances) and prevent the radiance in our soul from shining forth into the world, in a reflection of our Father’s glory.
Yeshua emphasised that this glory, this fruit, can only grow in an honest and good heart. A clean and pure heart is one that has been circumcised.
“Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn/stiffnecked.” (Deut. 10:16)
‘Heart’ is a word that is central to all Mussar teachings. In his book Climbing Jacob’s Ladder, Henry Morinis describes his Mussar teacher Rabbi Yechiel Perr’s definition of the ‘foreskin of the heart’: “Callousness we would call it today – not allowing feelings to penetrate, not allowing oneself to be soft, to have pity. The lev (heart) represents the deeper feelings where the intellect and emotions blend.”
When our intellect and emotions are in balance they can work and abide together harmoniously in our center – our heart. Hearts can get hardened, or blocked up, by layer after layer of reactions to negative experiences, in order to form a protective shell that surrounds and walls off a heart in order to prevent further hurt and pain. Then, as Morinis explains, the pure light of the soul cannot shine through. People who never succeed in peeling off those layers and opening their hearts “…leave their sweetest [and true] self imprisoned behind that wall.”