Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet. – Jean-Jacques Rousseau
What does that mean?
This quote starts describing patience, and assigning it a flavor. A very strong and not very pleasant flavor. A flavor to which we can relate.
Bitter, in tiny amounts, can provide contrast, but it isn’t usually something you would want regularly. But, in the context of the quote, it has a reward.
By enduring the bitter, we are to be rewarded with a fruit which is sweet. What exactly it is depends on what we are being patient, and how patient we are.
By waiting, delaying, and anticipating, we build a tension. By waiting, we can allow things to develop into something sweet. Most fruit, before they are ripe, are bitter, which helps anchor the quote in our minds and mouths.
Why is patience important?
Fruit isn’t the only thing worth waiting for. There are many things in life that take time. While cookie dough, to me at least, tastes as good as the baked cookies, most things get better if you can wait long enough to let them develop into something even better. And it’s a lesson I have to keep repeating.
Without patience, we move too quickly, start before we are ready, or get something before it is ready. And all too often, we simply cannot get it until it is done, and patience is forced on us. The question then becomes well do we wait? I don’t wait very well, despite years of practice, but I’m getting better.
If we have patience, or can muster at least a little of it, the time we wait doesn’t seem so bad. If we lose our patience or don’t have any in the first place, we end up becoming cranky, upset, emotional and otherwise unhappy. Why? Because we don’t yet have it, whatever it may be.
Patience is how we should greet the inevitable, the unavoidable and the inescapable. With patience, it becomes bearable. Without patience, it becomes unbearable. And in the end, it’s up to us to make the choice, and stick with it for as long as we can.
Where can I apply this in my life?
Patience is a habit. It’s a muscle that needs to be used to become stronger. If you don’t use it, you tend to lose it. And, at least in my opinion, it starts with attitude. What is your attitude towards waiting? How patient are you? If you can wait just a few seconds longer, the habit becomes stronger.
How long can you wait before attacking that cookie, or whatever your favorite food might be? What about your favorite activity? Can you wait for the end of the day? Can you wait for the weekend? Can you wait for a vacation? Or do you have to call in sick and start doing it right now?
Could you use a little more patience? Just practice, right? You can start with small things, like waiting another day before ordering that thing you saw online and just have to have. You can wait another 30 seconds before gobbling up your favorite dessert. Yes the delay is bitter, but the fruit is sweet.
I’ve been impatient a lot lately. I just started a new job, and nothing seems to be moving quickly. Everything takes too long. It’s just not fair. And that, for me at least, is the root of the problem. My primary problem with patience is my presumption that just because things could go faster, they should.
Take a moment and consider situations where you have trouble being patient. Is it with your kids, your neighbors, your favorite snack, or…? Grab some paper and write down a couple of these situations. Now look at each and consider what is at the root of it. Why can’t you be patient, or what wears thin and then breaks your patience?
Do your issues come down to your attitude? Yes, you want it, and you want it now, but why do you think you should have it, and have it right now? What’s wrong with half an hour from now? What’s wrong with tomorrow? If you can find the why, you will soon see the how which will allow you to better work on your patience.
I have to remind myself that life isn’t fair. Just because someone else has a nicer car doesn’t mean I have to get one right now. Life isn’t fair, and everyone has different priorities. I’m choosing to do other things with my money, and hope the fruit of retirement is sweeter than that shiny new car.
We all have things in our lives which try our patience. What will you do today to better your patience? It won’t get better by itself.