Patience is power, not passivity or resignation


I married well.

More than a decade of marriage and umpteen years of official togetherness is likely to evolve along one of three paths — complacency, growth or stagnation.

While my husband, Mark, has certainly grown in myriad ways, I’ve grown more — principally because I had far more growing to do.

This fact about a fruitful partnership tends to dilute in the deluge of daily duties, but re-emerged this week as a valuable reminder during my current maelstrom month.

Whatever could (and can) go wrong, did (and still is).

This is not a postmortem of “been there, survived that”, but live coverage of what seems to be a most unfair helping of triple punches served with a penchant for more sugar and a craving for carbs.

Day-to-day thorns are commonplace for most of us, and we deal with them.

But sometimes (and you’ve been there, survived that) there just doesn’t seem to be enough skin left to hold one more figurativeduiweltjie”.

And that’s my week, nutshelled.

Usually, when pushed beyond my limit, I react with frustration and anger, rather than patience and saintly virtue.

In this way, I am likely the golden mean for most of us.

But it never works — getting frustrated.

And it is true that, as much as we loathe admitting it, patience is the healthy reaction in the end.

A dear friend helped me to process my sense of powerlessness by reminding me of Hanlon’s Razor — the principle that states: “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.”

And it’s true.

The administrative errors made by an institution, the consequence of which could be dire for one of my kids; the erroneous handover, by my youngest, of my big, pink, thief-magnet wallet to my oldest (long story, neither to blame); the inexplicable loss of a favourite hoodie on the day that it was sorely needed; the illogical, logical impossibility of a lost credit card that was never removed in the first place ... all these, and most, are punches not deliberately delivered by some unseen madman simply to taunt and hurt me.

They are simply tests of patience, at both best and worst, most of the time.

And this is why my husband draws my respect.

Psychiatrist Judith Orloff wisely says that we need a new bumper sticker for humanity: “Frustration Happens”.

There are always going to be plenty of reasons to be impatient and frustrated, rejected, disappointed.

How to deal with it all, she asks?

“You can drive yourself crazy, behave irritably, feel victimised or try to force an outcome — which are all... self-defeating reactions that alienate others and bring out the worst in them,” she explains on

“Or, you can learn to transform frustration with patience. Patience doesn’t mean passivity or resignation, but power.

“It’s an emotionally freeing practice of waiting, watching and knowing when to act.”

Orloff says that, with patience, you’re able to step back and regroup, instead of aggressively reacting or hastily giving up on someone who is frustrating.

I’ve been guilty of both reactions multiple times.

And that’s what Mark has learnt, earned and embraces as the biggest secret — not sweating the small stuff; and genuinely not sweating it, for “realsies”.

Sometimes, other people’s perceived misdeeds may be simply Hanlon’s Razor; or, like my bank, big-boy bully tactics unapologetically designed to force you into complying with their bureaucratic, technocratic ways (you can tell that I’m still smarting from that punch earlier this week).

But either way, or any which way you look at it, your power ultimately lies in not swallowing the negative into yourself, in the form of a she-banshee reaction.

Because, as my ever-wise friend Liesel of Cape St Francis repeats to us, often: This too shall pass.

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