A lot of people make resolutions at this time of year. I am definitely one of them. But lately, I’ve noticed people talking about a word for their year. One word that defines and guides them in their decisions, goals, and plans for the entire year.
If it sounds simplistic, that’s because it is. But that’s the beauty of it. We don’t always have time to consult a long list of goals when going about our day. Sometimes, we have to give a yes or a no in a split second. But if we can filter all of our decisions through the lens of one word, we can make those choices while remaining true to what we want for ourselves this year.
These words range from defining the speed at which one lives, to the focus of one’s thoughts. The word I have chosen is somewhere in between.
If there is one thing that I definitely lack, one thing that steals my focus and my kindness, and one thing that hurts those I love the most (including myself), it’s my lack of patience.
In the infamous love verses in Corinthians, it says, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”
Love is patient. It is the very first criteria in a list of defining characteristics. How can I say that I love when I can’t even wait?
Impatience may seem like a small thing. Is it so bad to tap your foot while waiting in a long line at the bank? Haven’t we all windmilled our arm like a coach at third base while trying to hustle our kids out the door for school in the morning? Sure. But that rush, that refusal to wait, that all screams, “My schedule is more important than you.”
The sin of impatience lies in its self-serving foundation. While there are certain situations where haste and me-first-PLEASE can be excused (like when your baby is ready to enter the world in the passenger seat of your car), the majority of our daily interactions with others, as well as the conversations we have with ourselves, are selfish in their impatience.
Co-worker wants to talk? Dodge into another hallway before she sees us. Busy, busy, busy.
Son wants to tell us a rambling tale of his playground adventures? Let him talk while we load the dishwasher and wipe the counters. Really, we’re listening.
Pastor is reading a verse we’ve heard before? We’ve got 30 seconds to mentally scan our to-do list. Multitasking is important when we’re this busy.
Husband looking amorous? But this is “me” time.
Lady in line at Walmart wants to price match ev-ery-thing? Tap that foot to let her know we don’t appreciate her frugality when we have school pickup in 10 minutes.
And what about how we treat ourselves? When we can’t finish that ridiculously long to-do list, we grow frustrated with ourselves. When we can’t figure out how to assemble the crib, we throw the directions down and stomp our feet. When we lose our tempers and yell at our kids, we castigate ourselves, wondering why we still haven’t gotten this parenting thing down.
Impatience is a thief that steals our joy, gives no grace, and makes others feel less. I know this because I am that thief.
At the end of the day, I know that my impatience is the source of my frustration and anger. It’s why I rush my kids, push myself, and don’t take the time to have authentic conversations with people who deserve my undivided attention.
So this year, I am going to keep the word Patience close to my heart. I am going to speak it over and over again when I feel my natural tendency to rush, push, or avoid try to take over.
I will think it as I ignore the laundry and look directly into my children’s eyes as they regale me with their storytelling. I will feel it when I focus on the person right in front of me, not the to-do list in my pocket. And I will live it each day, as best I can, with God’s almighty help.
Patience goes against my human self-centeredness. So it’s going to take a lot of prayer and a lot of grace to accomplish. But I will do my best to define my year by this goal. And I hope that I will see the restorations of love and joy in my life where once my impatience stole them away.
What word do you think should define your new year? Why? I’d love to hear in the comments!