Patience: The Granting of Time and Space
Zion as a group of people, or a society is described as the pure in heart. (D&C 97:21) One of the greatest ways we can purify our hearts is by developing the godly attribute of patience. Remember, if we wish to go there—Zion the place, we must be a purified Zion person.
There are so many opportunities around us to practice patience: in our marriages, relationships, friendships, workplaces, and interactions with total strangers. These can be taken advantage of to a greater degree if we understand more fully what patience is.
The world takes a negative view of patience: it emphasizes the need to wait and the discomfort associated with it; it focuses on something being taken from you such as your time, your vindication, or even justice. The adversary whispers in our ear: “how dare they say that about you!” “Don’t let them get away with that!” “They deserve to be called out, and set straight right now!”
On the other hand, the Lord would have us focus on what we can give to another, rather than what is being taken from us. When we are patient with someone, what we are really doing is granting them more time and space to change than they deserve. We are, in a sense becoming their advocate, even as Jesus Christ is our advocate with the Father. (D&C 29:5; 32:3; 45:3; 62:1; 110:4) This is a title that He has used often in referring to Himself because it exemplifies one of his greatest attributes so well: his patient long-suffering. What is an advocate doing if not advocating for more time and space to change? And for a lesser punishment for one’s use of the granted time and space?
As Elder Maxwell observed: “we tend to think only in terms of our endurance, but it is God’s patient long-suffering which provides us with our chances to improve, affording us urgently needed developmental space or time.” (Endure It Well) An insight worth considering is that the sole reason our days are prolonged and our time lengthened on this earth is so we can repent while in the flesh. (2 Nephi 2:21)
Are we willing to give others the same developmental time and space that God gives us to learn to be perfect through trial and error? Choosing to be patient is waiting with a smile free of guile or shame; it is choosing not to retaliate, it is choosing to give another person permission to be human, understanding, as Paul observed, that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Rom. 3:23) Someone who is patient does not seek to condemn or point out the faults of others. They instead choose to act as an advocate for that person. . . granting, at least from them, more time to change. To choose impatience is to usurp the role of judge, and accelerate the administration of justice. It is wise to remember as we read in Mormon 8:19-20:
“the same that judgeth brashly shall be judged rashly again; for according to his works shall his wages be; therefore, he that smiteth shall be smitten again, of the Lord. Behold what the scripture says—man shall not smite, neither shall he judge; for judgment is mine, saith the Lord, and vengeance is mine also, and I will repay.”
Is there really anything another person can do to us that truly is worthy of immediate justice, judgment, and condemnation from us? When we condemn someone, we essentially say “your time is up and justice is due.” What others truly need from us as Zion individuals is support in their growth, shortcomings, and insecurities. As we demonstrate this, without speaking negatively, they will be empowered to change. For that is what the Lord does with us—He is patient and merciful with our follies and helps us to see who we can truly become.
Pressuring someone to change through subversion, shame, accusation, condemnation, fault finding, frustration, and negative reactions will never work, and it is unrighteous dominion. It is not the way the Lord has outlined for people to be influenced. His ways are much higher (D&C 121:34-46), and if we are to receive all that He has promised us, we must purify ourselves and become patient. Will we choose to influence others through power or force?
The Lord Himself is the greatest example of this godly attribute. Remember the woman caught in adultery in John chapter 8? Jesus never forgave the woman or condoned her behavior. He never signified slightly that He approved, pardoned, or overlooked her sin. He did, however react with patience in a gentle way. He did not retaliate as others seeking His destruction desired. He understood where she was coming from, including the deepest subconscious insecurities and fears that would lead her to do that. Ultimately, what He then gave her was time. . . more developmental time and space to correct her mistakes and go and sin no more. (John 8:11)
He understood that everyone fails, and chose to also invite those attempting to cast stones to reflect on this very same truth. He spoke carefully, and his words were very calculated. He did not overreact or respond brashly, but was a presence of love and perfect patience. Essentially His message to her was: “I am willing to wait for you to correct your behavior because I know that you can.” And for the woman, that was empowering—and just might have been a message she had never before been told in her life. This He chose over responding with vengeance and impatience, bringing justice immediately to this woman.
Can we imagine if Jesus were as impatient with us as we often are to others? Can we imagine what it would be like if He spoke to us in the tone and manner we sometimes speak to our family members, friends, and fellow human beings? What kind of a relationship would we have with Him? Would we have one at all?
I believe we can be patient and give others time and space. I believe that if we pause, and tune into the Lord and His voice in every circumstance, we truly can follow His invitation to “Learn of me, and listen to my words; walk in the meekness of my Spirit, and you shall have peace in me.” (D&C 19:23)