Patience is a virtue, impatience a vice

December 25, 2010 11:03 pm | Updated October 15, 2016 12:25 am IST

101226-open page -impatience_ col

101226-open page -impatience_ col

A few years ago, on a return flight from Frankfurt to Chennai (almost fully loaded with Indians and people of Indian-origin), I observed a strange thing happening. As the huge aircraft was about to touch down, many passengers got up from their seats and tried to open the overhead luggage cabins and take their belongings out, even as the crew kept announcing over the PA system that all passengers were requested remain seated with their seatbelts fastened until the aircraft came to a complete halt. By the time the plane landed and started taxiing, almost all passengers queued up as if it was an emergency evacuation plan and they were all ready to jump off the plane.

To my utter dismay, my next seat passenger opened the luggage cabin while the aircraft was still in motion and dropped his suitcase right on my head (thank god, it was soft luggage) and, adding fuel to the fire, he did not even apologise but rather gave me just a sheepish smile which infuriated me even more.

Somewhere I had read an article where the author says ‘India is a land of impatient people' and goes on to give a detailed analysis of why the Indian psyche is like that. According to that anonymous author, Indians have always had to struggle to get what they need, be it their rations or a seat in the bus or train, or getting a cinema ticket or even such a simple mundane thing as getting a packet of milk early in the morning. defines impatience as a quality which makes people unable to wait patiently or tolerate delay; restless, unable to endure irritation or opposition; intolerant: impatient of criticism, expressing or produced by impatience: an impatient scowl, restively eager or desirous; anxious: impatient to begin. Christine Egan, in her post on Blisstree says ‘I have no patience for impatient people. The chronically impatient like to waste their time and energy (and everyone else's) on situations that are of absolutely no consequence. Impatient people are those idiots who simply cannot fathom why it might take five entire minutes for them to receive their latte , even though the reason for this unacceptable wrongdoing is obvious'.

She goes on to ask, ‘Are impatient people as serious a problem as the earthquake in Haiti, the BP oil spill, the Chilean mine collapse, or the recent deadly flooding in Pakistan? Of course not. But these tragic, real-life events are precisely why perennially impatient people need to get a serious grip on their problems'.

Patience is a virtue. Impatient people are a vice. One big, bad, consequence is that impatience can be destructive. For example, if you pick fruits and vegetables before they're ripe, you lose in two ways. You'll never get the finished, completely finished version and you won't be able to eat what you have picked.

In today's world, I find that the virtue of patience is not taught right from early childhood. I remember the time when I was a schoolboy and when I wanted to have a bicycle, however much I pestered my father and tried all frantic efforts, I had to wait endlessly before my desire could be fulfilled.

But, today, parents cannot digest the idea of making their child wait for anything ranging from a chocolate to clothing, vehicle or even a car. Most parents do not understand the important psychological principle of ‘delayed gratification' these days because they themselves are a generation of ‘impatient people'. Impatience will cost you. It can cost you money, friendships, pain and suffering or any number of consequences simply because impatience is often followed by bad decisions.

Children have a shorter attention span than adults, commonly making then seem impatient. The best way to teach your children to be patient is to set an example and be patient in your actions. It also helps to give them something to do while they wait, and pay attention to them when you can so there is a balance between having patience and also having their needs met, suggests clinical social worker Bette Freedson in her article “Teaching Kids Patience,” published by the National Association of Social Workers (USA). Finally, as Solomon ben Yehuda ibn Gabirol says, “The test of good manners is to be patient with bad ones.”

( The writer is Professor & Head, Department of Social Work, Bharathidasan University, Tiruchi. His email id is: )

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