humility love of neighbor


6:00:00 AMUnknown

I am a busy person. 

Between my academics, extracurriculars, ministries, and social life, I have to keep a tight balance while juggling all of my different duties. I often pride myself on cranking out homework assignments in the library, running errands, having prayer time, catching up with friends, and exercising in a wonderfully efficient manner every day. And of course, there are few things in the world which give me greater delight than triumphantly checking off my neatly written, impeccable to-do list at the end of the day.

Now, I believe that being well-organized and productive are wonderful skills to possess. I am able to keep commitments and accomplish more in a shorter amount of time. I am a prudent and driven person.

However, being driven has its downsides.

When I am in line buying my dinner, I fight the urge to roll my eyes when the person making my salad slowly saunters about their job, cutting chicken like there's no tomorrow.  When I get stuck behind a student moving at the approximate pace of a snail, I quickly skip around the sidewalk towards class.  When my computer freezes as I'm trying to send an email, I have a small panic attack, ferociously hitting buttons and fighting back curse words.  Come on, people.  I have places to be, things to do, and tasks to accomplish.  

I am an impatient person.  

And I used to think that this was not such a big deal.  

That is, until I read Dietrich von Hildebrand's chapter on Patient in Transformation in Christ.  Where he accused me of being shallow, selfish and implicitly hostile to God's plan for my life. 

Ouch.  I do not want to be any of those things.  

Why is impatience such a big deal

Hildebrand thinks that impatience is a very big deal.  In the first place, it is a sure sign that we are much too absorbed in our own ideas of what we think is necessary for the given moment.  He writes: "Our impatience, then, is a sign that we are still too much absorbed in outward concerns and monetary aims; that they are too important to us and at a given period occupy our field of attention too extensively." (1)  

Impatience turns a person in upon themselves and their own desires.  Hildebrand says, "This unlimited subserviency to their own nature also creates in them an egocentric attitude, for they ascribe to any pursuit they are engaged in an importance over and above everything else.  They recklessly disregard other people's needs."(2)  Sounds about right.  I forget about the people around me.  My tasks are waiting.  

Impatience is prideful.  When we are impatient, "we sever the fundamental link with God that defies the constitution of our life as a creature."(3)  We do not want to accept that we are not in control or that we do not have it all figured out.  Hildebrand observes: "Thus illegitimately arrogating to himself a status of sovereignty, the subject clings to the illusion of being a lord over time.  He behaves as if it were in his power to make the trees grow more quickly and the earth revolve more quickly around the sun."(4) 

"Impatience renders us hard, unkind, masterful, and in some circumstances, violent.  It always implies a loss of depth."(5)  We are too focused on ourselves to recognize the reality that God's plan must have priority over our own.  

Thankfully, the virtue of Holy Patience helps to heal this false sense of sovereignty that we possess, this unwillingness to submit to God's perfect will, and this disordered focused on self.  We must place every part of our day into the Hands of God, submissive and conscious that "as Thou wilt" is better than what we want. (6)  Hildebrand thus describes the patient man: 

"He possesses a prompt readiness to bear any cross that he cannot avert from himself without injury to charity or infringement of some duty.  He has the art of waiting, and he knows that, though he might justly reproach somebody with having caused him a needless loss of time, a loveless rebuke sometimes amounts to a greater evil before God than a measure of lost time.  Above all, the true Christian never pretends to a false position of supremacy over the universe.  He who has patience abides by the Truth; the impatient man, posing at least in a partial sense as though he were God, submits to the bondage of the illusions of pride." (7) 

Wow.  Patience is not simply being phlegmatic, easy going, or insensitive to timeliness.  Rather, it is the art of being able to genuinely submit our creaturelineness to the Lord.  We must patiently pray: "You are the Lord of my time.  Make me more perfectly docile to your plan."  

Yes, sometimes I will get slowed down and inconvenienced by others or unforeseen roadblocks.  But Hildebrand gently reminds us: "Our neighbor's sluggishness, as his other awkward and annoying traits, belongs to the things that we must bear in charity." (8)  Love bears all things, even that which is just plain annoying.  Which is why Hildebrand can truthfully say that "Holy patience is absolutely necessary and an essential part of holiness.  For holy patience means our response to truth that it is not we but God alone who determines the proper day and hour for the fruitful performance of certain actions and even more exclusively, the ripening of our seeds and the harvest of our labors." (9)

So, be patient, lowly creature! Just kidding.  But really: Get over yourself.  And get in touch with the reality that God has got it figured out.  


1. Dietrich von Hildebrand. Transformation in Christ. Ignatius Press, 320.
2. Ibid, 322.
3. Ibid, 322.
4. Ibid, 323.
5. Ibid, 324.
6. Ibid, 324.
7. Ibid, 344.
8. Ibid, 324.
9. Ibid, 328.

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