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An Excerpt from Patience: How We Wait Upon the World by David Baily Harned

This excellent overview of the virtue of patience is written by David Baily Harned, professor emeritus of philosophy and religious studies at Louisiana State University. Here is an excerpt on patience as a dimension of hope.

"What could be the meaning of hope if it were not patient? Its heart and soul is the readiness to endure the present in the expectation that tomorrow will offer more than today. Hope is greatly diminished if we are unwilling to persist and persevere, for then there would be no reason to hope for the fruits of self-reliance, the outcome of our own industry and discipline. How could we hope for the help of others if we were not forbearing and patiently supportive, offering them their proper turn so that we can also expect our own? Or how could hope anchor itself firmly in reality if we were not prepared to search its situation for the new values and possibilities that only attentiveness and empathetic regard can discern? Patience sees what indifference and boredom never can, because it takes the time, dedicates the energy, and wants to see. Patience and despair may look upon identical landscapes and at first glimpse nothing that promises renewal or relief. Yet patience lives between memory and anticipation in such a way that it brings something to the situation that was not apparent until patience had done its careful work. So there are still grounds for hope as long as life shall last, Patience, even when its own vision is obscured, can try to clothe itself with the imaginations of others and thus hope to find new images of hope.

"Finally, faith would be faithless were it not for patience, without which it would not endure. Faithfulness to our Creator constrains us to display to others the same patience God has shown to us in our creation and reconciliation. How could we offer to our fellow creatures less than what we ourselves have received: ungrudging patience continually renewed? Faith in the Creator demands unwearying and persevering effort in the confidence that the universe we have been given is a benign and appropriate context for the exercise of human liberty. Faith in Father and Son together emboldens us to endure patiently the adversity we encounter, in imitation of the Suffering Servant who was obedient unto death. As a synonym for Christ's obedience, patience is the content of faith. In the time between the times we must be ready to pause, to listen in confident expectancy, so that we can attentively discern and decipher the signs of God's activities in our lives.

"Anatomy lessons, therefore, tell us far less than we need to know about the living body of virtue. There are no virtues without patience. Each requires every attribute of patience — calm endurance, expectant waiting, forbearance, and perseverance — and, in their Christian versions, a pervasive note of gratitude. Patience is many things: a necessity that our nature enforces, a requirement of civic order, an ingredient of every virtue. It is one of the most selfless and significant acts of which the human spirit is capable, and the heart of the gospel."

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