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A virtue has been defined as an acquired habit making it easier for one to perform good actions and works. It has also been defined, as a principle of action which God infuses into the soul and which enables it to perform supernatural action and as a rule, virtues are used in the sense of moral excellence and virtues or moral powers of faith, hope, charity, justice, fortitude, patience, and humility are opposed to vices.

Patience is the virtue of calmly enduring mental, physical, or spiritual anguish not because of pride or worldly ambition but out of love of God. Patience really is the foundation for society in many areas of life. Even the world's religions preach the value of patience. Unlike impatience which can be unhealthy, and a host of many personal ailments and which is not only bad for the society but may even have drastic effects on your personality and lifestyle and your overall well-being even your personal growth. Impatience can cause you to become irritable, stressed, dissatisfied, upset and more. It can also lead you to easily lose control of your emotions exhibiting outbursts of anger and disgust. You may become pessimistic about life and become sour towards everything in life leading you to sacrifice friendships and family quickly because of your impatience.

Today, impatience is seen on a regular basis. Our society is a society of instant gratification. We want what we want now. People do not like to wait on anything, whether it be the mail or help from friends and it begins to make people feel as though they are unhappy with life. People have become more easily irritated, frustrated, ill tempered, agitated and tense. One reason patience is a virtue is precisely because it has always been in short supply. Patience is the heart of ethics although we don't value it as much as courage or generosity because it involves a withholding of self. Instead, we have to share an orientation to the future that is attentive to the struggle involved in its accomplishment. Patience may be one of the most challenging traits to obtain and often it does not fit in with many people's personalities. However, it is a wonderful trait to have and will allow a person to relax and cope with stress, although those who are impatient are often stressed and pressured individuals.

Patience is simply the ability to sit back and relax while you await an outcome. It is the ability to wait for something without excessive frustration. All good things come to those who wait, but waiting too long for something is commonly referred to as laziness. Every person has to exercise patience in order to face difficulties, whether he does so willingly or not. The wise man readily exercises patience because he realizes its benefits, and knows that he will be rewarded for his fortitude and criticized if he panics. He is aware that if he doesn't have patience, panicking and impatience will not help him to regain missed opportunities, and will not take away things he dislikes.

Fate also has a small, but important, role to play. In most cases where patience is required, a situation is inevitably out of your control. Whatever is decreed cannot be prevented from happening, and whatever is decreed not to happen, can't be made to happen. So an attitude of impatience and panic actually causes harm in such instances. Do not try to "be" patient, or to practice patience, or try to be like those who are patient. It isn't a habit, or something to be learned for its own sake. Patience is a reward. It is a state of balance that rises simply out of understanding; the unexpected gift experienced after a confluence of a sense of time, of struggle, of perspective, of judgment, of harnessing the mind.

Patience is not impossible in today's world, but it is not the norm for our time. It honors the passage of time. It honors the appreciation that, whatever is done during life, as close as you are to jumping into bed tonight and turning off the light, you will someday be just that close to your own death. It honors the sense that life is a string of days; that to forget to relish each one, whatever it brings, is a missed opportunity to laugh, to love, to feel, to live. It honors that, as difficult as today may be, it is only one waypoint of the many waypoints we are going to live through. Patience honors the struggle to live each day. That alone is what we are obliged to do; so live each day and make of it whatever joy you can find for yourself. That joy is easier when we resign ourselves to live each day for its own reward. Patience also honors quieting the complexity of the mind, which otherwise is forever looping back on itself. Quieting the mind is a process of meditation that requires only the habit of recognizing what one is thinking about and then resolving, for a time, to put that thought aside.

To increase your level of patience, there are certain steps that you may take.

- You should develop a consistent philosophy of your life. Learn to accept that good things come to those who wait. Reform your perspective on life and slow down. Accept that you may not be able to do everything as quickly as you would like.

- Break your goals down into steps so that you feel as though you are making progress. Realize that progress may also come in small steps and take time. Wake up to the realities of life around you. You are not always going to be able to do what you want when you want to. Know that some things take time and that other things have to wait.

- Accept that other people may not be as fast as you or move as fast as you. Slow down your pace of life and accept that life will determine when it is time for you to move on to something new. A lack of patience can cause you to be a person that nobody wants to be around. Accepting that life takes time and learning that instant gratification will not solve everything will allow you to have patience.

- As you gain patience you will become a happier and healthier person. Time being the greatest healer implies that everything becomes alright after enough time is allowed to lapse. Therefore, it seems logical to conclude that we should not be unnecessarily complicating everything in our life by being impatient.

Patience and time warps are not essentially correlated. Time may be a healer but not necessarily a cure. The scars may remain, though the wound may be healed by the efflux of time. Patience is on the other hand is a virtue by itself because it makes us better people. The definition of the word is to tolerate delay. This implies self control and forbiddance of what we want when we want it. How many times have we jumped the gun and found out it would have been better to tolerate delay and have self control? What did we miss out on? Did we hurt someone because of lack of patience? Did our lives just change completely just because we couldn't control ourselves? Patience is not only a virtue but a necessity for a happy existence.

Main image by Enas Satir.

Carmen Faiz Girgis

Sudanese writer