SummaryWith the advance of modern technology, it seems like we no longer need the virtue of patience. John Clark opines maybe we need it now more than ever before.
In economics, there is something known as the “time value of money.”
Broadly, the term refers to the monetary value that something possesses because time is on its side. Perhaps the easiest example of the concept is to observe that, due to inflation, one dollar today has more buying power than one dollar tomorrow.
Time plays a huge role in many financial instruments, like stock options, mortgages, and bonds. In a sense, time is bought and sold every day throughout the whole world. You might consider Wall-Streeters callous for measuring the value and price of time, but we all ascribe a value to it, whether or not it carries a price tag.
It is not only Wall-Streeters but also Main-Streeters who understand this principle; perhaps we’re overly aware of it. Compared to when I was growing up in the 1970’s, we now have an impatience with time.
For instance, in the 1970s’, companies would advertise their products on commercials. At the conclusion of the ad, the narrator would often say: “Please allow 6 to 8 weeks for delivery.”
Can you imagine waiting six to eight weeks for delivery today?
Can you imagine waiting even six to eight days?
I was recently explaining to my 23-year-old son about what life was like when I was growing up. I told him that if you wanted to watch the movie The Quiet Man, for instance, you couldn’t just watch it at your convenience. You couldn’t download it, you couldn’t rent a videotape, and no one “bought movies” back then. If you wanted to watch The Quiet Man, you had to wait for it to be aired on television. On Sunday, you read in the TV listings that The Quiet Man was going to be on television on Friday, and you waited six days to see it.
Fast forward to today: if you are downloading a movie, even waiting six minutes seems unbearable.
In the 1970’s, you had to be patient because there was no way around it. However, today, in many ways, there is simply no need to be patient. Ironically, we don’t have time for patience.
By the way, I enjoy that I can order an old movie and watch it with my family in a matter of minutes, and I appreciate the fact that I have immediate access to millions of songs on my phone.
But the fact that patience has become almost anachronistic in this technological age is not without demerits that spill over into fields unrelated to technology.
I was reminded of this a few weeks after I bought my Tivo, when I found myself in a conversation with someone. And as the conversation dragged on, I instinctively searched for my Tivo remote so I could fast forward the other person’s speech.
When I realized what I was doing, I immediately felt terrible. This was not only illogical—and weird—but it was a sign that my patience was waning for any conversation that waxed less than poetic.
As parents, we must realize that we need to embrace and promote the belief that the value of time with our children cannot be traded as a commodity in Chicago or London. Is not a trade; rather, it is an exchange of hearts and souls in communion with each other. And that requires not only patience, but a recognition that patience is good.
And it’s not only our patience toward others that requires attention. Saint Francis de Sales is attributed with saying: “Have patience with all things, but first, with yourself.”
Some might respond: Patience with yourself? How hard is that?
For some, patience can prove very difficult, especially in the spiritual life. We see things happen instantly, and so we want to change instantly. When we discover that isn’t possible—when we find we can neither download the virtue of hope or simply post charity on our spiritual timeline—we get impatient and frustrated.
Due to the inability to immediately overcome sin and replace it with habitual virtue, we can grow impatient with ourselves. However, as Father Francis Randolph, the author of Pardon and Peace, points out: “God does, of course, want us to be perfect and free from sin, but he is working on a time scale of eternity.”
Due to the inability to immediately and permanently overcome temptation and replace it with habitual virtue, we can grow impatient with ourselves. We need patience. Does that mean that we should simply accept sin as part of our lives?Quite the contrary!
Saint Francis de Sales continues: “Those who aspire to the pure love of God need to be more patient with themselves than with others. We have to endure own our imperfections in order to attain perfection…”
Patience does not mean that we should make room for sin in our lives. That’s giving up, which is the opposite of patience. Salesian patience means having the will to constantly fight temptation and sin and to never give up.
Patience is not a sometimes virtue; it’s a lifetime virtue that prepares us for eternal life.
Eternity. Perhaps that’s the time scale with which we ought to concern ourselves. Perhaps pondering a time in which there is no time helps us develop patience.
Maybe pondering the presence of God and the absence of time helps us develop not only patience, but other virtues as well—most of all, love for God and love for each other. As Saint Paul reminds us: “Love is patient.”
And the time value of love is eternity.