Patience - is it really a virtue?

Patience is a virtue,
Possess it if you can,
Seldom found in woman,
Never found in man.

I found this quote on Google. It's anonymous, as far as I know. Sounds ok, doesn't it? But is it true?

Most of us nowadays, when we consider doing something, like buying a product, joining a club, trying a new diet, or maybe cultivating virtue, tend to ask ourselves: What's in it for me? (Be honest now!) So perhaps we should look at exactly what virtue means before going any further...

The word virtue comes to us via Old French, from the Latin virtus. This word in Latin means manliness or courage, and it in turn is from the word vir, which means a man. Our word virile is from the same source. The word virtus also has the meaning of "effectiveness" and we see this use in the word virtual. As in "virtual reality", giving the sense of something that has the effect of being real.

Ok so far? For the Romans, someone who showed manliness or courage was automatically a good sort of person, so the word virtue came to be applied to those qualities that a courageous and manly fellow would have.

If you look at the quote at the top though, it seems that patience is a virtue that men don't have at all.

Looking a bit further into this, if you look at the word patience, you find something even more interesting. It again comes from Latin, patientia, with the original meaning of "endurance". If we look a bit closer we find that the word passion comes from the same root word. Also the Greek word pathos (suffering) is from the same root meaning, and this one comes into words like "sympathy" (suffering together). The word passion tends to have a sexy sort of meaning for most people today, but in former times, it meant suffering. So for example, there was the Passion of Jesus on the cross, meaning the suffering.

I found another quote, this time from someone called Lyman Adams (who I have to confess I never heard of before), which goes, "Patience is passion tamed." This seems a bit absurd now. Rather like saying "Green is green".

Here's another quote I found. "Patience can't be acquired overnight. It is just like building up a muscle. Every day you need to work on it."

(I think that's enough quotes for one day.) But the question is: Why should you bother to acquire patience?

Well first, there are many situations where you just won't get what you want right this instant, or even this year. So why stress about it? Have patience!

Sometimes, to keep a good relationship going, you need to practise the art of forbearance, not getting angry with your partner or parents or children, even when you have good cause to. Have patience!

Or when you see the events in the world not really going the way you think they should? Do whatever you can, and hope for the best to come. Have patience!

All these situations have got something in them for you to gain if you have patience in them.

So what do you think? Patience really is a virtue then?

Just one more quote, and this is the last one, I promise!

"Patience is something you admire in the driver behind you, but not in the one ahead."


Mulled Vine said...

Just because a virtue may have selfish benefits does not mean that it is not worth pursuing, particularly if the benefit to others outweighs whatever we ourselves might gain.

Sofia said...

Yes I agree. That's what I was trying to show in my post.

Hermster said...

Wow, great depth in that post Sofia!...Patience is a virtue until it stops being a virtue : )

Hermster said...

P.S. Keep up the in depth writing, your good at it.

Vivi-Mari Carpelan said...

Hm, lots to think about here! Ok, well why men wouldn't have patience is a mystery to me. I never heard that sort of assumption before, though must confess I haven't read Mars & Venus in depth, lol... Passion and patience also seem to be almost opposite qualities, maybe they have just evolved that way over time. Passion = out of control (though often in a good sense), patience = in control (also in a good sense). A virtue I understand as something that is good for you and your community. Patience on the other hand is mostly a matter of your own convenience and growth, though there are exceptions such as being patient with the very young and the very old etc. In the end it seems that all this amounts to the common understanding of things in life, rather than an exact science with accurate semantic implications. Patience is also not always a good thing, or let's say that sometimes when you run out of it you have good reason to, and it can lead to much needed changes and wake up calls. Too much patience can cause martyrdom. I guess the golden middle path would apply in this case... :-)

Sofia said...

To Vivi-Mari: You have given so much to think about in your comment. When you say "too much patience can lead to martyrdom" I presume you mean the sense that word has of being a person who allows others to take advantage, a doormat? The word "martyr" has acquired some rather negative connotations of late, hasn't it? But using the word in its original sense, I would be happy to be a martyr for the truth.

Thank you everyone for your very kind comments. If anyone else is reading this, why not do yourself a favour, and check out the blogs of all these wise people who have commented this post! Just click their user name to go through.

(BTW, on a different subject, has anyone heard the Symphony No. 3 in C Minor Op. 78 by Camille Saint-Saens? Totally mind-blowing. I suggest you try the version by Barenboim with the Orchestre de Paris.)

Vivi-Mari Carpelan said...

Thanks Sofia! Yes, lots of different threads of thoughts started running, it was quite pleasant to get out on new ground for a change! Yes, I suppose I believe there's a limit to patience in normal day-to-day life and so it would be just as you say. Of course, there's a higher form of patience but who many of us are really there... most of us struggle with how to draw the lines in a healthy way. I really like that you bring out the issue of martyrdom in the really basic sense, because I've noticed how people jump at my throat as soon as they sense that I am a martyr for a cause. But I had an insight some time ago when I realized there are weird I would do just to do the right thing. I didn't quite expect that of myself... ;-) Btw you inspire me to write more philosphical blogs again, though I have short musings on my website that are more "to the point". :-)