Love Is Patient: Part II

This post is part of a continuing series. To read this series from the beginning please start with Love – An Introduction.

Breaking the Cycle of Emotional Triggers

Obviously, patience is not just for politics. I only began with the political stuff because that’s what motivated me to start studying the topic of love. But this Christian need for “enduring trials calmly without  complaint” applies to almost every aspect of our social lives. As I said in the previous post on this topic, Love Is Patient: Part I, I believe that patience is the first word in the famous love list for a reason. I believe that patience breaks the cycle of emotional triggers that bring us all down.

I remember, while I was going through the divorce in early 2005, I learned about a form of therapy that deals with emotional triggers in a more immediate and practical way compared to traditional therapy. The idea is to either basically reprogram our responses to certain triggers or completely avoid them. Before I read about this new kind of therapy (I never became a patient – I just read about it), I had never thought of emotions as being attached to certain triggers that way. Once I learned about the triggers, I began to recognize them in my own life. I know that certain events will cause certain emotional responses in my behavior, some of them being so strong that I cannot make myself not react the way I do…even when I know what’s happening to me.

Imagine what happens when two or more people become victims to their own cycles of emotional triggers. Often times, in our relationships, the things we do in response to one of our triggers cause us to trigger certain reactions from our neighbors. This is what I mean when I say it is a cyclic problem. If my behavior in response to an emotional trigger actually becomes an emotional trigger that causes you to do more of what triggered my behavior, the obvious result is an escalating emotional tempest.

Love is patient breaks that cycle and calms the tempest. When we are patient and dedicate ourselves to enduring abuses, adversity and trials, it stops the cycle by preventing us from continuing the kind of behavior that triggers emotional responses in our neighbors.

It’s Not Easy

Living as a patient person is not easy. It often feels like you are a human punching bag. It feels degrading. It makes us feel small and worthless when we let people say and do things that hurt us, while we do nothing to defend or justify ourselves.

But we are justified in Christ!

Galatians 2:16
Know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.

Being justified in Christ is a common topic that gets preached and studied fairly regularly. It is a cornerstone principle of Christianity. But I would like to look at this justification in a slightly different context. Instead of looking only at the price that was paid for our sins, I would like to encourage you to hold Christ up in your life as an example of patience.

Jesus Christ as an Example of Patience

The most obvious example of our Lord’s patience was his torture and crucifixion for our sakes. Jesus was a sinless man who did not deserve the punishment he received. Remember the story, He was found innocent of the charges:

“You brought me this man as one who was perverting the people; and here I have examined him in your presence and have not found this man guilty of any of your charges against him. Neither has Herod, for he sent him back to us. In deed, he has done nothing to deserve death. I will therefore have him flogged and release him.” ( Luke 22:65-23:26)

Jesus wasn’t just crucified. He was tortured and mocked. He endured as a sinless man hardship far beyond what you and I can possibly imagine. This divine example of patience is certainly the most obvious example, but there is a more personal example that touches my heart a little deeper than the story of his crucifixion. It stings my conscience to know that I too have caused Him to exercise patience. Our Lord and Savior has endured my behavior in a loving and patient way.

To me, that hits a lot closer to home. How do you feel about it? You know the story of Jesus’ crucifixion. You know he died on the cross for your salvation. He paid the price for your sins. How does it make you feel to know that each day He continues to endure your neglect? Every time you chose selfishness over love, Jesus endures it calmly and without complaint.

I can think of no better example of patience. All of us who call ourselves Christian should strive to be just as patient as Jesus.

  1. Breaking the cycle of triggered behavior is vital for a marriage to grow out of the emotionally charged, toddler “tantrum” stage (characteristic of young marriages where the partners are still getting used to each other). You are spot on in saying that the patience part of love is what breaks that cycle and calms the tempest. But not all people are naturally “slow to anger”. Are there exercises that a young married person (who might be easily irritated by his/her partner) can do to develop the kind of patience that will help the relationship grow?

    • Thanks for your comment. I guess you are right. I have not addressed the issue of HOW to be more patient. That’s unfortunate because it was one of my original intentions.

      I think to be more patient, it begins with actually desiring that in your life. If you do not want to be patient, there is no way to fake it. I believe that the way we learn to desire patience is through wisdom. When we can see, through our mind’s eye, the multitude of rewards that comes from patience, how could we desire anything BUT patience? So, the first step in becoming more patient is prayer. The Bible clearly says that God will give us wisdom if we ask for it. Pray for wisdom about patience and through that wisdom you should be able to see the benefits of patience, which should translate into the desire to become more patient.

      I must stress once again that patience is impossible to fake. Without this desire, you cannot be patient.

      The second step is planning. Most of the stuff that pushes our buttons does not only happen once. If we stop and think about those things that make us respond emotionally, we can identify them in advance, before they happen again. When you recognize an emotional trigger, do something about it. Make a plan. What will you do differently next time? What can you do to avoid having that button pushed in the first place? When you plan your responses in advance, you can modify a lot of your own behaviors. For those triggers that you find to be too strong for planning, when you continue to react the way you were programmed to react, it is possible to reprogram that reaction over time. Until that happens, it’s important to avoid that trigger as much as possible (which also involves planning).

      I have always been annoyed by the saying, “That’s the way I am and I’ll never change.” The truth is, we are all capable of changing. In fact, I would go as far as to say that none of us are capable of avoiding change in our lives. If you think your emotional triggers are “hard wired”, think again. You can change that part of who you are. But you have to want to do it and you have to make a plan.

      The third step is to communicate your plan. This step is somewhat new to me. I have learned the hard way that a plan is no plan at all if it is contained within our own minds. We must express our expectations to other people. Let’s say that you and your spouse have been having fights about money. If you have gone through the first two steps, you desire and have prayed for wisdom/patience, you have made a plan about the things the two of you have been fighting about and the triggers you have recognized, now is the time to tell your spouse what that plan is. Being patient is not a different way of fighting the battle. It’s more like giving up the fight and taking that first step towards working together. So there is no room for secrets here.

      I will be the first one to admit that this is my weakest area on this topic. I am a good planner, but I have been self employed for my entire life. I have never had a real need to communicate those plans to anyone else. It is very difficult for me to tell someone what my plans are and to map out my expectations. But it is extremely important to do this. Without this part of the process, you are still fighting with your spouse. You are still trying to “go it alone” when the two of you should be working together.

      I remember when my ex left me and I literally begged her to try to work things out. I tried everything I could to get her to give our marriage a chance. Her response? She said “I already tried working it out.”

      I hope this rings a bell with every married person who reads this comment. When you try to work things out on your own, you are still working against your spouse, not with him/her.

      The third step in becoming more patient is to defend and execute your plan. I put defend and execute in the same step because they are the same thing. And no, I am not saying that you should defend your plan against your spouse. I am saying that there will be many challenges to your plan. Do not give up just because it got hard. Do not give up just because it’s taking you longer than you expected. A good plan involves breaking larger goals into smaller steps. Being patient is a large goal. Do not be discouraged if it takes a while. It’s going to take a long time to make such drastic changes in your life. And unfortunately, that period of time will actually seem to take even longer than it actually does.

      Also, it’s important to be wise enough to recognize when to break through an obstacle or to just go around it. Sometimes plans need to be slightly modified. And, unfortunately, sometimes those modifications seem to other people as if you are quitting. Keep your eye on your final objective. A good example of this is for those triggers that you cannot modify or reprogram in the short term. I’m not saying that you should stop trying to modify them, but it is important to not allow those unmodified triggers to divert you from your ultimate goal. Know when to go around the obstacle, know when to avoid that trigger completely in order to reach the final objective.

      The fourth step is evaluation. A goal like “being more patient” is a life long pursuit. If you use hiking as an analogy, the landmarks you use to reach your goals will change as you make your way further in that direction. When out hiking, it is important to stop now and again to readjust your bearings. The same is true in your efforts to become more patient. Take time now and again to evaluate your progress. Look at what you’ve done right and at what needs to be done better. Make adjustments to your plan based on your successes and failures.

      Another reason for the fourth step is to give you confidence. When you take a step back to see how far you’ve come, it always gives you more confidence to face what lays ahead.

      I know that this four step plan sounds like it comes straight out of a self help book. For me, these four steps were several months in the making. I had to follow these steps to make the progress I’ve made so far. And none of it came from a self help book. All of this that I’ve shared in this comment is stuff I learned from reading the Bible. I lived through some changes in my own patience and went to the Bible for help every time I had a problem.

      Anyway, I hope this answers your question. Maybe I will post this as its own blog post sometime in the future.

      Thanks for the comment.

  2. Five Steps To Patience - Eddie Lewis Ave. - pingback on 10 September, 2012 at 1:24 pm

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