Impatience Could Cost You Your Life
“IMPATIENCE Paid for with Life.” Those were the arresting words headlining a short article in the German Süddeutsche Zeitung of October 16, 1978. The persistently honking horn of an automobile standing before the closed barriers of a railroad crossing prompted the young lady attendant there to raise the barriers prematurely. This allowed “an impatient car driver” to pass through. Just as he was halfway across, a speeding train struck the car broadside, dragging it 180 m (590 feet) down the tracks. The article concluded: “The 44-year-old driver paid for his impatience with his life.”
Certainly a drastic example, but one that illustrates how dangerous impatience can be. No doubt you have heard of persons who have suffered relapses simply because they became impatient and got out of bed or went back to work too soon after a serious illness. And relapses can be extremely serious, even deadly. Yes, impatient people can put themselves in peril, even in dire danger of losing life itself.
The words “patience,” “patient” and “patiently,” as well as the closely related word “long-suffering,” appear over 30 times in the Holy Scriptures. An interesting example is found at 1 Thessalonians 5:14, where Christians are advised to “be long-suffering toward all.” As The Bible in Living English renders it, they are to “be patient with everybody.” More easily said than done? True. But why? What causes us to become impatient?
CAUSES OF IMPATIENCE
Ignorance can sometimes cause impatience. A person with limited knowledge may fail to see the need for exercising patience. However, with an accurate knowledge of all the facts, an individual might feel different. If the “impatient car driver” had known accurately the nearness and speed of the train that later struck him, he undoubtedly would have shown patience.
Another reason for impatience may be that a person thinks too highly of himself or takes himself too seriously. Fittingly, then, the Bible says: “Better is one who is patient than one who is haughty in spirit.” (Eccl. 7:8) A person “haughty in spirit” is impatient with individuals who may make him wait or who slow him down in his activity. But is his time more valuable than theirs? He generally seems to think so. The impatient individual is inconsiderate and lacks empathy, the ability to put himself in the other person’s place. He is quick to find fault with the weaknesses and shortcomings of others. Not only is he “haughty in spirit” but he is also lacking in love.
Whatever the cause, however, an impatient person may act rashly, foolishly. Yes, for Proverbs 14:29 says: “He that is slow to anger is abundant in discernment, but one that is impatient is exalting foolishness.” The example cited at the outset certainly demonstrates how foolish impatience can be. Did this impatient driver have anything so important to do that it could not have waited another two or three minutes? Of course, waiting a while might have made him late for an appointment. But, as it turned out, because of impatience he failed to keep any such appointment at all! So if you do not want to act foolishly, learn to be patient.
BEING “PATIENT WITH EVERYBODY”
How often people get impatient with strangers! They may find fault with the way others drive, or may complain about the service that clerks or waiters give them in stores or restaurants. But being patient with family members and friends sometimes is even more difficult. A salesman may exercise great patience all day long, trying to please customers, only to come home in the evening and be anything but patient with his wife and children.
Why, at times we even fail to be patient with ourselves! But this, too, is important lest we become discouraged because of our limitations and imperfections. Being impatient with ourselves can make us think we are waging a losing battle and may cause us to give up in despair in our race for life. This would be most dangerous.
In the matter of putting on the Christian personality, the Scriptures are very realistic. Though instructing Christians to make changes in their lives, nowhere does the Bible claim that these necessary personality adjustments can be made overnight; nor does it indicate that each individual will find it easy to make them. (Col. 3:5-10) For example, consider the habit of smoking. Some former smokers found that giving up cigarettes really was not very difficult. But others had a struggle before they finally succeeded in shaking the habit. Nevertheless, being persistent led to eventual success, whereas being impatient might have led to early failure.
Of course, the very height of foolishness is being impatient with God. And yet, have you not heard the complaint: “If God is ever going to do anything about wickedness, it is about time he did it”? Well, the Bible assures us: “Jehovah is not slow respecting his promise, as some people consider slowness, but he is patient with you because he does not desire any to be destroyed but desires all to attain to repentance.” (2 Pet. 3:9) Strangely, it is this very patience on God’s part that sometimes tends to make us impatient.
What if this system of things has lasted longer than we once thought or hoped it would? This has not been without a reason. The apostle Peter also wrote: “Furthermore, consider the patience of our Lord as salvation.” (2 Pet. 3:15) An accurate knowledge of God’s purposes and a humble appraisal of our own relative unimportance will enable us to remain patient just as long as Jehovah sees fit to be patient with this old system and its people.
The Bible writer James encourages Christians to be patient, by saying: “Exercise patience, therefore, brothers, until the presence of the Lord. Look! the farmer keeps waiting for the precious fruit of the earth, exercising patience over it until he gets the early rain and the late rain. You too exercise patience; make your hearts firm, because the presence of the Lord has drawn close.”—Jas. 5:7, 8.
Let us never make the mistake of getting impatient with God. Also, we need to guard against becoming impatient with our spiritual brothers and sisters, our relatives, friends and strangers. As the Scriptures say, ‘let us be long-suffering or patient with everybody.’ Remember, impatience could cost you your life!