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Essay No. 3 in a series of essays on Values
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PATIENCE

By: Tanveer Hussain, PhD

Patience has been explained as the ability to: endure hardship, difficulty, or
inconvenience without being negatively reactive; show calmness, self-control,
and willingness to tolerate delay; sit back and wait for an expected outcome
without experiencing anxiety, tension, or frustration; let go the need for
immediate gratification; display tolerance, compassion, and understanding
toward those who are slower in developing maturity or understanding; and
feel relaxed, calm, and placid in the face of challenges[1].

The Arabic word for ‘patience’ is ‘sabr’. The primary signification of the word
‘sabr’ is ‘(self)-restraint’ but it also signifies forbearance, composure,
equanimity, steadfastness, perseverance, and endurance[2].

“The patience of man, which is right and laudable and worthy of the name of
virtue, is understood to be that by which we tolerate evil things with an even
mind, that we may not with a mind uneven desert good things, through which
we may arrive at better.”[3]

When you are impatient, you feel irritated, agitated, frustrated, resentful,
anxious, tense, over stressed, dissatisfied, upset, angry or ill tempered. By
being impatient, you can: run the risk of being dissatisfied and upset; easily
lose your control and fire off outbursts of anger; discard relationships, people,
jobs, and school whenever things are not working out as quickly as you want
them to; waste energy worrying about how slow things are changing instead
of directing that energy towards the changes you desire; and withdraw
prematurely from a good work because you are not seeing an immediate pay
off for your efforts.

“Impatience is said to breed anxiety, fear and discouragement; all of which
make you a failure. On the other hand, patience transforms you into a
confident, decisive and a rational being. Impatience can be the root of many a
predicament. It may incite you to make hasty decisions, draw wrong
assumptions and do the wrong things, ultimately landing you in trouble. ”[4]

According to Dr. Friedman, “impatience” is one of the cardinal features of
Type-A personality, some of the common symptoms of which are: eating fast
and leaving the dining table immediately; to be often told to be slow, take it
easy and become less tense; to be bothered a lot to wait in queue at cashier's
counter or to be seated in a restaurant waiting for the food; usually looking at
TV or reading the paper while eating; examining your mail or do other things
while listening to someone on the telephone; often thinking of other matters
while listening to your partners or others; and believing that usually you are in
a hurry to get things done[5]. Three most common symptoms of impatience
are restlessness, hyperactivity and aggression.

Impatience is one of the causes of chronically hyperreactive nervous system
of people because of their race against time. According to Vijai P. Sharma, Ph.
D., studies have shown that the blood clots faster when people race against
time. Many chemicals and stress hormones are excessively produced in
people who have a hyperreactive nervous system due to the presence of TAB
(Type-A behavior) disorder.[6]

According to an article published in New York Times, “Young adults who are
prone to impatience and hostility are more likely to develop high blood
pressure. Both character traits are common in people who have Type-A
personalities who have long been believed to be at higher risk of developing
hypertension. However the researchers, who report their findings in the
Journal of the American Medical Association, found that a third common Type
A trait, competitiveness, did not appear to increase a person's risk of high
blood pressure.”

According to the research, led by Dr. Lijing L. Yan of Northwestern University,
those who scored highest on the impatience scale had an 84 percent higher
risk of developing high blood pressure than those who scored lowest.[7]
According to a similar study, stress-management techniques, among them
meditation (e.g. in the form of ritual salat), has been found to reduce both
negative emotions and changes in the body associated with cardiovascular
disease.

According to a research, impatient people have more drive for immediate
gratification. The drive for immediate gratification leads such people to spend
their liquid wealth more quickly. These consumers live from hand to mouth in
their checking accounts, but hold large stocks of illiquid assets like home
equity and defined contribution pension plans. When making long-run choices
- for example, when deciding how to invest during flush times - these
consumers buy illiquid assets that offer a high rate of return and pay out
slowly over many decades. When making short-run decisions, however,
these consumers are willing to pay a high price for immediate gratification[8].

Allah says in the Quran that man is so impatient and fretful that even if he is
just barely afflicted, he raises a hue and cry. However the people who are
Musalleen (who follow the Divine Law) do not do this.[9]

Impatience is generally a response to some stimulus. “Between stimulus and
response, there is space. In that space lie our freedom and power to choose
our response. In our response lie our growth and our freedom”. Rather than
being reactive we should be proactive. Being proactive is “the ability to act
based on principles and values rather than reacting based on emotions or
circumstances”[10]. Musalleen (who follow the Divine Law) are never
reactive but proactive and always act according to the principles and values
given in the Divine Law.

Patience, however, does not mean just to keep on enduring hardship,
difficulties or inconveniences without doing anything. That would take us to
stoicism. It merely implies not to be negatively reactive under the
circumstances that we are not happy about. Being negatively reactive i.e.
being irritated, agitated, angry, frustrated, over stressed, or tense because of
impatience may result in harm to our own selves or others.

Patience is one of those behavioral attributes which, according to the Qur’an,
require a firm will and determination[11]. Allah provides us opportunities in
life to test our mettle in the face of fear, hunger, loss of life or property, or
devastation of fields or orchards, etc. Allah has given glad tidings to those
who patiently persevere in such trials and tribulations; those who, when an
affliction befalls them, say, "We are for Allah, dedicated to His Cause and
every step of ours will advance in the Direction shown by Him." It is they
whom Allah supports and blesses with His Grace. And it is they, they who are
guided to the most desirable destination.[12]

Patience is described as a virtue in all religions or spiritual practices. Many a
great men has also expressed their thoughts about it[13]. Patience in
adversity is most goodly [in the sight of Allah][14]. Allah commands to restrain
from impatience in a goodly manner.[15] Allah says in the Quran that one of
the essential components of true piety, which results in an exponential
growth in human self, is the ability to patiently persevere in physical or
emotional distress and in times of peril.[16]

The Believers must enjoin upon one another the keeping to the Truth, and
enjoin upon one another patience in adversity and deeds of kindness and
compassion.[17] Allah is with those who have patience[18] and He loves
those who are not impatient.[19]

Notes & References
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

[1] James J. Messina, Ph.D. & Constance M. Messina, Ph.D.,  http://www.
coping.org

[2] E. W. Lane’s Arabic-English Lexicon

[3] St. Augustine of Hippo “On Patience”

[4] Patience pays, http://www.hindu.
com/thehindu/jobs/0409/2004090800160800.htm accessed on 14-02-2006

[5] http://www.mindpub.com/art207.htm accessed on 13/02/2006

[6] http://www.mindpub.com/art208.htm accessed on 13/02/2006

[7] VITAL SIGNS: CONSEQUENCES; Impatience, at Your Own Risk  by ERIC
NAGOURNEY Published: October 28, 2003

[8] Impatience and Savings,  http://economistsview.typepad.
com/economistsview/2005/12/impatience_and_.html  accessed on 14-02-
2006

[9] [Al-Qur’an 70:19-22]

[10] Stephen R. Covey, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families”

[11] [Al-Qur’an 3:186, 31:17, 42:43, 46:35]

[12] [Al-Qur’an 2:153-157, 3:186]

[13] “Never think that God's delays are God's denials. Hold on; hold fast; hold
out. Patience is genius.”--George-Louis Leclerc de Buffon

Learn the art of patience. Apply discipline to your thoughts when they become
anxious over the outcome of a goal. Impatience breeds anxiety, fear,
discouragement and failure. Patience creates confidence, decisiveness, and
a rational outlook, which eventually leads to success. --Anonymous

“No greater thing is created suddenly, any more than a bunch of grapes or a
fig. If you tell me that you desire a fig, I answer you that there must be time.
Let it first blossom, then bear fruit, then ripen.”--Epictetus

“The key to everything is patience. You get the chicken by hatching the egg,
not by smashing it.”--Arnold H. Glasgow

“Patience is bitter, but it's fruit is sweet.”--Lida Clarkson

“There is no royal road to anything, one thing at a time, all things in
succession. That which grows fast, withers as rapidly. That which grows
slowly, endures.”--Josiah Gilbert Holland

“I think and think for months and years, ninety-nine times, the conclusion is
false. The hundredth time I am right.”--Albert Einstein

If I have ever made any valuable discoveries, it has been owing more to
patient attention, than to any other talent.—Isaac Newton

“The twin killers of success are impatience and greed.”--Jim Rohn

For everything there is a season,
And a time for every matter under heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die;
A time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal;
A time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
A time to embrace, And a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to seek, and a time to lose;
A time to keep, and a time to throw away;
A time to tear, and a time to sew;
A time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate,
A time for war, and a time for peace.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8


[14] [Al-Qur’an 12:18, 12:83]

[15] [Al-Qur’an 70:5]

[16] [Al-Qur’an 2:177]

[17] [Al-Qur’an 90:17, 103:3]

[18] [Al-Qur’an 2:153, 2:249, 8:46, 8:66]

[19] [Al-Qur’an 3:146]
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