By Brenda Redel, Director of Organizational Development
Who hasn’t heard a friend or neighbor (or even ourselves) complain about being stuck in traffic, having to wait in a line, or being put on a long hold on the phone? These life experiences may have to be tolerated, but they’re certainly not enjoyed. Perhaps that discomfort is what has made the phrase ‘Patience is a virtue’ so popular. It’s a difficult characteristic to achieve.
Recently “patience” has taken on an entirely new depth of meaning for me (and I believe others, too) as we’ve endured the year-long worldwide pandemic. I am reminded of the need for patience every time a Rancher asks me, “When are we going to be out of the Red Zone?” “When will we be able to use the Fitness Room again?” or, “When will we be able to eat lunch in the Palmer Center?”
I wish I had the answer. Instead, I reply with almost the same response every time, “I don’t know. We just need to be patient and pray that God lifts the pandemic soon.”
While that answer may sound like a platitude to some, practicing patience with the understanding that God is in control may help us all to weather this storm. Even under circumstances less extreme, research has shown that practicing patience helps us to live healthier, happier lives. Some examples, include:
- Being a better friend. Experts say that patience can be the key to greater empathy and forgiveness toward others. That encourages friendship and we reap the benefit of being less lonely!
- Experiencing better overall mental health. In a 2007 study, Professors Sarah A. Schnitker and Robert Emmons cited that patient people have fewer negative emotions and less depression.
- Achieving our goals. Professor Schnitker conducted another study in 2012 that found that test subjects who demonstrate patience make better progress towards their goals. And not only that, they express more satisfaction once their goals are met.
- Participating more completely as citizens. The same research discovered that patient people tend to vote regularly and stay more involved in their community.
Another Biblical characteristic that can be challenging to express is “forgiveness.” As difficult as it is to be patient during trying times, perhaps it is more difficult still to forgive because of serious hurt or disappointment. That being said, the effort may be well worth it. There is truth in the concept that holding onto past hurts can affect you more than the person that you resent. There are amazing health benefits to forgiveness, such as:
- Decreasing cortisol levels. Our bodies produce cortisol when under stress such when we have bitterness or hold grudges toward others. Among other undesirable results, cortisol causes us to store body fat, as indicated in a University of California, Berkeley study.
- Boosting your energy. Two separate studies cited in Medical Daily found that participants who knowingly forgave past wrongs, as compared to people with unresolved resentment, more successfully performed physical feats.
- Lowering anxiety and pain. A Duke University study revealed that people with chronic pain, after taking a course on forgiveness, love, and kindness, reported significantly lower levels of anxiety and pain. The other control subjects, who only took pain medication, reported unchanged pain levels.
- Maintaining a higher percentage of CD4 cells. At this time, when we have a heightened need to keep our immune systems strong, this one may be the best reason of all! CD4 cells are vital for healthy immune system function. A 2011 study showed that subjects possessing more of these beneficial cells had genuinely forgiven someone who hurt them in the past.
Despite the popularity of sound bites and immediate gratification, the need for a “whole person” approach that embraces virtues such as patience and forgiveness is more evident than ever in our community, in healthcare, and in our personal lives.
At Rainbow Acres, we endeavor to live out these unmistakable truths. These concepts are provided for informational purposes only—this is not medical advice. Yet, isn’t it encouraging that research has begun to prove the value of Biblical standards like “patience” and “forgiveness?”