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How to Wait with Patience and Grace

Updated on November 27, 2014
Monument to the Burghers of Calais by Auguste Rodin in 1889 at the Rodin Museum in Philadelphia, PA.
Monument to the Burghers of Calais by Auguste Rodin in 1889 at the Rodin Museum in Philadelphia, PA. | Source

Waiting Poorly Equals Anger

I used to be terrible at waiting. I used to sit there sipping on cups of coffee, looking up at the clock and wondering where the hell is he? I was revving myself up with anger and thinking about what a complete jerk the guy was for making me wait.

I couldn't stand to waste time or to be inconvenienced. I had things to do, I would tell myself, I don't have time for this bull. There were so many situations where I waited poorly that I can't even begin to tell you.

I remember waiting for a job interview. About 20 minutes past the appointment time, he calls to say that he's running late and that I could either wait or reschedule. I was so pissed that I told him that this is probably an indication of what the job will be like--disrespect--and you can have it!

I remember the numerous times I waited for my mother to finish shopping in the mall or the supermarket. I got so mad because I thought she was taking her time or not caring about me waiting in the car. I became one angry son and, needless to say, it was not helpful for our relationship.

I hated waiting in the doctor's office for what seemed like hours--only to spend 15 minutes of actual patient time with the doctor. I would get furious, keep it inside, leaving the anger to boil.

These are many other examples of me waiting poorly. My poor waiting skills cost me friendships and put strain on personal relationships. The more I waited poorly, the more I got angry, raised my blood pressure and took years off of my life,

You can't be good at waiting without patience. Patience is the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset.

Waiting More Gracefully

Then I got older and wiser and slowed down. I developed an illness, cystic fibrosis, that necessitated a lot of waiting in doctors offices, hospitals, medical testing, and waiting on the phone with my insurance company--you name it. Waiting was a skill that I needed to master. If I didn't master it, I would be miserable. I would be in perpetual suffering mode, one step away from an angry outburst, a counterproductive behavior or even a heart attack.

I developed a menu of things that I could do when I am waiting like praying or meditating or striking up a conversation with someone. These things help me to wait more patiently and gracefully.

There's definitely an art to waiting. There's skills, yes, but there's a beauty to someone who knows how to wait and knows how to wait with love and gratitude and understanding.

It's taken me many years to be a good and skilled waiter. Here are some of the things that I learned about waiting along the way.

There's No Law Against Relaxation While You Wait

Ali, good at waiting for dinner.
Ali, good at waiting for dinner. | Source

Principle #1--The Person You Wait for is Trying the Best She Can

Poor waiters often assume things like she's making me wait on purpose. She doesn't respect my time. She's a self-centered person.

Well, the truth is the person you are waiting for wants you to be happy. The person is not being selfish or ignorant or irresponsible. The person doesn't want to hurt you, either. The person truly wants to see you on time, but in some cases--a wait is unavoidable.

It's not because doctors are greedy that they make you wait. It's not because they are privileged and entitled. There was something unforeseen occurring during the course of the day. Someone was in crisis. Someone needed more time than usual.

So, the person who waits with grace and patience needs to understand that the person he is waiting for is doing the best that he can under trying circumstances. Waiting past the appointment time is unavoidable. It's no one's fault. It just happens.

What's the most challenging situation to wait?

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Waiting for a Good Burger Shouldn't be Too Difficult

An amazing burger joint in Goleta, CA.
An amazing burger joint in Goleta, CA. | Source

Principle #2-- Waiting is My Problem and Not the Person I'm Waiting for

I made the appointment. I wanted to see the doctor. I wanted to be here in the waiting room. It is entirely my fault and not the doctor--so the waiting responsibility is all mine.

If I am bored, it's my problem. If I am angry, it's my responsibility to deal with it in a mature fashion.

If the doctor is running late, I am not going to yell at the receptionist or the nurse. I am not going to blame anyone. I'm going to find out the reason for the delay, either accept it or ask to reschedule. It is entirely on me to deal with the problem of waiting. But in most cases the delay isn't that long and it could be tolerated without any undue stress.

Things To Do While Waiting

  • Meditate on your breath
  • Meditate on a relaxing image
  • Read about mindfulness
  • Strike up a conversation
  • Daydream
  • Focus on things you are grateful for
  • Write poetry
  • If standing in wait, do a mountain yoga pose
  • Practice love and kindness by blessing the person you are waiting for
  • Prayer for someone in need (if religious)
  • i-Pad or laptop--games, internet, work, etc.

Principle # 3-- Free Time is Good Time

Waiting can be an opportunity rather than a waste of precious time.

Waiting can be positive moments of discovery rather than painful moments of boredom.

Waiting can be a break from your hectic, task-oriented day. You can sit quietly or you can take a little snooze.

You don't have to feel that you are wasting your precious time; you can plan for the wait and take advantage of the free time with a book you want to read or a letter you want to write or a video game on your iPad that you are dying to play.

You complain that you don't have enough free time and when you have free time--you get angry about it.

Some Things We Wait For Aren't Really Necessary

Principle #4--Patience is a Virtue

My sense is if you develop one virtue--patience would be the one you most definitely want to develop.

“Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet.”

A waiting person is a patient person. The word patience means the willingness to stay where we are and live the situation out to the full in the belief that something hidden there will manifest itself to us.”
Henri J.M. Nouwen

“There's no advantage to hurrying through life." -Shikamaru Nara”
Masashi Kishimoto

“If I could store any character quality in a cookie jar, I’d store patience. Chocolate-chip patience cookies. And I’d eat them all at one sitting.”
Jarod Kintz, This Book is Not for Sale

“Patience is not passive waiting. Patience is active acceptance of the process required to attain your goals and dreams.”
Ray Davis

Patient Versus Impatient--a Comparison

Water or tea
Coffee, energy drinks or cigarettes
Blames others
Based in reality
Distorts reality
Lack of self awareness

You Can Find Peace While You Wait

Meditating in Santa Barbara while waiting for an NFL game to start.
Meditating in Santa Barbara while waiting for an NFL game to start. | Source

Principle #5--Mindful Awareness or Just Happy to be Here

Perhaps the most important aspect of a good wait is mindful awareness.

Mindfulness is the intentional, accepting and non-judgmental focus of one's attention on the emotions, thoughts and sensations occurring in the present moment.

Mindfulness is being in the present moment and being aware of yourself in that space and time.

Mindfulness is accepting where you are in the present moment and making the best of it.

Mindfulness is being aware of your responsibility for being in a particular moment; you chose to be there so it is where you want to be.

Being mindful is to wait with gratitude and love and that it is an opportunity rather than an inconvenience in your life.

In a mindful wait, you will be happy that you are alive and not dead; you will be happy that you are in the waiting room instead of in a car accident; you will be happy that you are in a doctor's waiting room instead of in an ICU; you will be happy that you have health insurance rather than not being able to afford seeing the doctor. You will be mindful that you are a very lucky person.


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    • Mark Tulin profile image

      Mark Tulin 2 years ago from Santa Barbara, California

      Thanks for your feedback, MsDora.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 2 years ago from The Caribbean

      "There's definitely an art to waiting." Very well put, and you demonstrated it effectively in your 5 points. Excellent and personally meaningful.