On Patience

What happened to my patience? I used to be a really patient guy. Especially when a friend had a problem and needed a consoling ear.

I’m still patient with most things, I’ll humbly admit. Waiting in a long line at the airport? No problem. Slow cashier at the supermarket? Take your time. The dentist is behind schedule with lots of patients? That’s fine, I’ve got plenty of patience for your patients.

Have a laundry list of complaints you need to vent? Okay. Want to vent and re-vent that same list tomorrow too? Um, sure. Need to repeat the same vents all month long? OMG I’m gonna punch you in the throat.

Well, no, I’m not really. But I can’t sit still and listen like I used to anymore.

In my twenties, I used to have what I called a Jesus Syndrome. I used to believe I could and should save everyone. If anyone, friend or stranger, had a problem, I would be willing to listen and do what I could to help out.

Sometimes it meant just listening. Other times it meant offering gentle advice to nudge them in the right direction (leading a horse to water and all that). And other times, it meant driving over to their house and helping them hide the bodies.

To some friends, I was a big brother. To others, I was almost a father figure. I didn’t mind either. Personality tests have indicated that I have the temperament of a teacher or therapist, and the informal roles I’ve taken have certainly been in that vain.

But then, around my thirties, something changed. My patience levels dropped. Or perhaps it’s my tolerance levels. Whichever it was, I can no longer summon the energy I once had to sit down and listen to someone vent endlessly. It’s draining, as opposed to — if you can believe it — energizing, as it once was.

I attribute it to my mind being an empathic sponge. After having a particularly depressing conversation, I feel depressed. After a particularly angry conversation, I’m angry. And so on.

After a while, it’s worn me down. It’s enough to wear anyone down.

By nature, I’m a positive guy. I see most problems as fun challenges and opportunities. It can take quite a bit to wear me down. About thirty years worth, apparently.

I feel terrible about this. Losing patience and tolerance is frustrating. If I could wring out my empathy sponge and start anew, I would. Then I’d be able to console those that need frequent consoling again.

Or maybe it’s better this way. Maybe those that need frequent consoling can’t be saved by me. The Jesus Syndrome isn’t a healthy syndrome after all. Why should I want to perpetuate it? When I have a family, they will be the ones on which I want to lavish my energy and attention. Close friends too. But not any ole’ person. Maybe this evolution of patience and tolerance is a natural and necessary step.

Meanwhile, those that need frequent consoling would perhaps be best served by professional help. A professionally trained therapist, counselor, or psychologist.

Or, a punch in the throat.

Nah, just kidding. Go for the professional help.

Author: Mike Lee

An idealistic realist, humanistic technologist & constant student.

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