There is this line in the gospel of Luke:
In your patience, you will own your heart. (1)
The Greek word for patience also implies constancy, perseverance. It is a strong word. ‘Heart’ comes from ‘psyche’ and psyche also means life, mind, soul. So, in your patience, you will become one with your heart. I remember when I first read this line being struck by it. A word like ‘patience’ which is a rather grey word in our normal way of talking comes out rather luminous and strong from this passage.
Then, years later, I happened to read some important reflections on this topic by a well-known Christian author, Henry Nouwen and a couple of coauthors, in a book entitled Compassion (2). He says: ‘If we cannot be patient, we cannot become patient. We cannot be compassionate. If we ourselves are unable to suffer, we cannot suffer with others, which is the meaning of compassion.’ Now, in dharma language we may say: ‘If we are not open to our suffering, if we are not ready for a direct experience of our suffering, there is not much hope of having empathy for other people’s suffering.’ Henry Nouwen continues, underlining a couple of very crucial things: ‘Patience is the capacity to see, hear, touch, taste and smell as fully as possible the inner and outer events of our lives. It is to enter our lives with open eyes, ears, and hands, so that we really know what is happening. Patience is an extremely difficult discipline precisely because it counteracts our unreflective impulse to flee or to fight.’ And then he concludes: ‘Patience requires us to go beyond the choice between fleeing or fighting. It is the third and most difficult way. It calls for discipline because it goes against the grain of our impulses.’ (3) Continue reading
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