Five Steps To Patience

The following post was originally my response to a reader’s comment. It ended up being so long that I decided to also post it here as a full blog.

Here was the reader’s comment on my Love Is Patient: Part II post.

Written by Old Fashioned Marriage

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?

And here is my response (the prettified version):

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.

Step One: Prayer

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 come 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.

Step Two: Plan

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.

Step Three: Communicate

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.

Fourth Step: Defend and Execute

The fourth 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.

Fifth Step: Evaluation

The fifth 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 five step plan sounds like it comes straight out of a self help book. For me, these 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.

I want to encourage all of my readers to feel free to ask questions like the one that motivated this response. I have never been one to take offense at being questioned. Most of my best books, articles, and blogs have been inspired by questions like the one from Old Fashioned Marriage.

About Eddie Lewis

Eddie Lewis is primarily known as a Christian free-lance trumpet player in Houston, TX. Eddie makes a living playing trumpet, teaching trumpet and jazz improvisation, writing trumpet music and authoring trumpet books. His second book, Daily Routines for Trumpet, is used regularly by thousands of trumpet players around the world. If you would like to purchase some of his CD's, feel free to visit our online music store at http://www.TigerMusicStore.com.
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