|Photo from Red Wing Lodge by Tom Hendrickson|
To Wait with Patience
Past Grand Master Grand Lodge of Minnesota
There are many great and valuable lessons within Freemasonry that can be applied to our everyday lives to improve our daily living and enrich our lives.
During this pandemic, for us Freemasons, it is almost like déjà vu again, for we have been living the very beginning of the Entered Apprentice degree, where the Master of the Lodge directs the candidate to “wait with patience” in a sequestered space. We are all like that candidate who is sitting in the candidate room waiting for the pandemic to dwindle so we may gather again.
I cannot think of a timelier lesson to explore more closely during this time of chronic uncertainty than patience. The past months of the COVID-19 pandemic have been a very test of patience in the extreme. Living under self-quarantine has disrupted the structure and rhythms of daily life, as well as the predictability of our daily lives. All those events, that as humans we crave, such as family holiday get togethers, birthday celebrations, masonic events and gatherings have all been put on hold until the virus is contained. We anxiously wonder what the future may look like or what the new normal is going to be. There are many similarities that can be drawn between that Entered Apprentice and our lives today.
I have not seen any masonic education about patience or waiting, so it must be assumed that all masons possess this trait, which may be true, but by observing society today, maybe this is a good time to give patience more thought and attention.
What is patience? Official definitions vary, but I prefer the Cambridge Dictionary definition: The ability to wait, or continue something despite difficulties, or to suffer without complaining or being annoyed.
The Cambridge Dictionary defines wait, “to allow time to go by, especially while staying in one place without doing much, until someone comes, until something that you are expecting happens or until you can do something”. If you don’t have one of those three goals in mind at the start then it’s just indecision, procrastination, or you are killing time.
The first three degrees of the Blue Lodge contain lessons for us to build upon to be master of ourselves. Patience is an exercise in self-control; you can say patience is the neglected virtue, but patience is the foundational virtue that supports the development of other great moral strengths such as wisdom and courage. Patience is also needed before we take on our serious obligation of learning to subdue our passions.
I mentioned patience as a foundational virtue. What is a virtue? A virtue is a behavior displaying high moral standards. So, does patience show a high moral standard? You bet it does. Patience is essential to self-control.
We are not born with patience. Patience is a learned skill that takes practice to master, but it is a skill that is essential in our daily lives. Patience has been described as like a muscle that needs to be exercised on a regular basis for it to be effective. The more we exercise it, the stronger it becomes.
Having patience means we can wait calmly in the face of frustrations, difficulties, obstacles or struggles. This ability to continue, despite adversity, is a skill all of us need on during our lives. Whether stuck in a traffic jam, standing in a long line at the grocery store, or even in lodge when the secretary reads the electric bill. We certainly have needed this skill during the past year with the stress and uncertainty of the pandemic.
Patience is a state of mind, where you deal with your thoughts and emotions, between the experience and your reaction. To have patience, ultimately means dealing with your own thoughts and emotions. Patience requires you to control your thoughts, words and deeds.
Patience, on the surface, appears to be passive, but it is an active and purposeful state. Patience is a decision-making process that allows us to make better decisions. Patience allows us to take a pause that allows us to gather our thoughts and manage our feelings. Patience allows us to observe more intently, ask questions to understand the situation more clearly, communicate better with a tempered response, and most importantly, find peace in situations that are outside of our control.
I would guess that hardly a day goes exactly as we planned, free of any intrusions or without any adjustments. Who plans to have a car accident on the way to work? Accepting the fact that these intrusions or difficulties are part of normal life and exercising calm will help us all be more patient. If we can work to accept and tolerate a situation, without becoming upset or angry, that helps us manage our emotions and choose what behavior that we wish to respond with. We cannot choose our feelings, for our feelings just happen, but we can choose what behavior we wish to display.
Other times, patience is needed for those daily hassles or obstacles that are beyond our control. Like, when your boss tells you must work late but you must also drive your kid to soccer practice, you walk to your car after lodge and discover you have a flat tire, the air conditioner breaks down on the hottest day of the summer, or your computer crashes and neither you, nor your teen age kid, knows how to fix it.
A critical time we need patience, is to overcome setbacks or hardships in life, like the COVID-19 pandemic, experiencing a divorce, medical treatments such as cancer treatment, or especially when we are helplessly waiting to see if those treatments are working for a loved one, or coping with the death of a family member. Patience for the long term is essential to life.
For parents’, patience is an absolute necessity, during even the best of times. During this global pandemic, life is more stressful with this forced togetherness and so many unknowns. With working from home and the kids schooling from home, this can result in a lot of clutter, noise, fear and confusion. We adults can become irritated and feel like we are “losing It” or simply feel overwhelmed. We also need to model patience for our children and help them cope with changing situations.
When needed, give yourself the “quiet time” to take a step back, take a breath, and collect your thoughts before losing your patience. The entire household is in this together so patience and understanding of each other are essential, as hard as that can be some days.
Sometimes, in what may be the most difficult challenge we face, we need to be patient with ourselves.
In this fast-paced chaotic world that we live in, it seems there is always the constant pressure to do more with each minute of the day or that nagging voice in the back of our minds is telling us to do more, and do it perfectly.
We make notes in our phones at odd hours of the night. Our pockets are filled with sticky notes and scraps of paper. Our to do list becomes a never-ending monster that is never satisfied leaving us frustrated, restless and impatient. It can become overwhelming and can lead to being highly self-critical of ourselves for our self perceived failures. This may lead us to become angry and frustrated with ourselves.
Again, as with our loved ones, we just need to take a step back, and be patient with ourselves first. To realize that we are all human and no one is perfect. We all do the best we can and be kind to yourself as well as to others.
Patience when practiced, can calm our minds, preserve positive emotions, and it can guide us to view life’s’ daily struggles in a better way. Developing the skill of patience can help accepting life’s daily frustrations and can help us to not lose our temper. There is no real point in losing your temper over the things we cannot control.
The flip side of patience is impatience. Impatience usually happens when we refuse to accept a situation that we have no control over, like getting stuck in traffic or a meeting being delayed because someone is late.
Rebbetzin Chana Heller in her article, Developing Patience: The Foundation for All Relationships describes impatience like this.
“Impatience is a form of anger. There is a continuum. On the one end we are impatient or slightly irritated and then we start ramping it up to being annoyed, indignant, angry, exasperated, furious, and finally totally enraged. In each case we are angry because our will is not being done and we can’t tolerate the pain that causes us. It’s just a matter of degree”. (Heller, 2021, aish.com)
I have observed so many impatient and angry individuals since the pandemic officially began. It made me stop and reflect, in general, on why our society has become so impatient, and the importance of patience.
I believe that one reason that has contributed to our society becoming more impatient can be traced to technology and the internet. The speed and amount of data available to all of us has led to a sense of instant gratification. Today, we live in a world, that because of technology, we can instantly connect with our friends and loved ones in real time although they are thousands of miles away. We can connect while canoeing the Boundary Water Canoe Area in Northern Minnesota, climbing mountains in Colorado, or enjoying a cruise in the Caribbean.
In this modern high-tech era that we live in, where almost everything that we desire is just a click away, technology had caused a cultural shift in our society and has conditioned us to expect immediate answers 24/7 all at our fingertips. With the click of a mouse, we can access information, download movies or entire seasons of television shows, and order any kind of consumer merchandise. We have come to expect information in a second, orders to be delivered within hours or the same day, and the movies and entertainment to appear within seconds. The problem that this high-tech era has fostered is the expectation of instant gratification or instant solutions. Expecting instant gratification for everything is counter to having patience and can get in the way of us coping with problems or other things in our lives that require more time or obtaining things that may require more time. Do you want to have that serious discussion with your wife or just send an angry tweet to her twitter account?
Certainly, the pandemic caused added stress to everyday life, which can add to impatience. For those fortunate to continue working remotely during the pandemic, there is the stress of trying to find a reasonable line between work and home life. We may be working longer hours or find it difficult to disconnect from work. Many feel pressured to show increased productivity while working remotely, believing if they do not, their job could be in jeopardy. For those with children at home, there is added pressures of wearing multiple hats throughout the day. We are checking and responding to emails at all times of the day and sleeping with cell phones to be always “available”.
Another area where I observe impatience is while driving. Over the years, it seems that all streets and highways have become more congested, making it more difficult to reach out destinations or the potential for all of us to become more impatient while driving. There appears to be a dramatic increase in negative driver emotions leading to honked horns, rude hand gestures, tailgating, aggressive driving and ultimately road rage. If ever there is a time exercise patience it is while we are driving.
For thousands of years theologians and philosophers have exalted the qualities of patience and identified it as an important virtue and important component of moral excellence.
There has been quite a lot of scientific research conducted on patience and the researchers have found that there are health benefits of being a patient individual. Impatient people are often angry and stressed, resulting in stress related illness such as hypertension and heart disease to name a few. Patient people tend to, overall, have lower stress levels and fewer physical illnesses related to stress. According to a 2007 study by Fuller Theological Seminary professor Sarah A. Schnitker and UC Davis psychology professor Robert Emmons, patient people enjoy better mental health, can cope better in stressful situations and tend to experience less depression.
Patience is a decision-making process that can allow us to make better decisions. Patience allows us to take a pause, gather our thoughts and feelings, before expressing ourselves. Patience allows us to temper our response, preserve relationships with those we care about and interact with people more pleasantly. Patient individuals are viewed more positively by their employers’ co-workers and by lodge brothers. Patience allows us to be approachable, to learn, conquer a complex task, accomplish long term goals.
If you are perceived as being impatient people may perceive you are impulsive, insensitive, and even arrogant. Others may think you are a poor decision maker, someone who takes short cuts and of being short tempered. At lodge, if you gain a reputation of having poor people skills and being insensitive, you may find yourself sitting alone or that your voice may not be heard as loud as you would like.
In our Masonic life, patience is a necessity. From our relationships with our Lodge Brothers, learning our Ritual and its meaning, working on committees or projects and especially while leading the Craft.
Patience makes us better leaders and mentors. As Masonic Leaders we need to establish relationships and work with our Brothers to develop their skills and understanding of the craft. As leaders, we may need to spend extra time with our Brothers to help them learn and them to develop that sense of belonging with other Brothers. For the Masonic tradition to continue there should be allowance for Brothers to develop and grow while passing out knowledge to the next generation of leaders.
With the vaccines being expanded to more individuals, this gives me hope that our lives will be returning to normal soon. One of my friends, he wishes the isolation to end because he had watched everything on Netflix. Another friend wishes to find a different family to quarantine with.
Given the prolonged period of self-isolation and uncertainty, it not unexpected that we are growing tired or frustrated. I think I can say that we are all suffering a bit from limited human contact and Zoom fatigue.
I think we all look forward to the day when we can all return to our lodges and experience, in person, the sound of the gavel, announcing our meeting is to begin. Although, some of us may need a refresher on getting dressed, combing our hair (for those that have hair) shave and wear a suit instead of sweatpants.
We just need to be patient a bit longer.
For, like the Entered Apprentice, we will find the door to our Lodge and enter, leaving the darkness, anxieties and helplessness of the world behind for the light and warmth of our Brotherhood.
For, we have waited with Patience.