I’m currently studying ethics at school. One of the aspects of my studies includes looking at different virtues: what they entail, why we consider them virtues (or who considers them virtues), and what they mean for us today. Over the next few months, I want to start discussions about some of these virtues, and how they apply to us as artists. Today, I want to talk about the virtue that has been on my mind almost every day lately: Patience.

by Hans Sebald Beham, 1540
Patience by Hans Sebald Beham, 1540 Photo Credit: Wikipedia

For those unaware, my wife and I are expecting our first child any day now. Today is the due date, but we’ve been expecting him for the past couple weeks. Unfortunately, despite a couple false alarms, he seems very comfortable where he is. This has tested the patience of my wife and I to its very limits at times. I am bad at waiting for exciting things at the best of times; the arrival of a new chapter of my life is almost unbearable.

Aristotle believed that the virtues were the middle ground between two extremes which were both less good. Patience lies between the extreme of apathy on one side and impetuousness on the other. If we are to be virtuous, by Aristotle’s definition, we must walk the fine line between not caring and jumping in with both feet before we’ve had a good look. The philosopher is quoted as believing, “Patience is bitter, but the fruit is sweet.”

In the life of the faithful, it is easy to see why we should work to become patient. God does not run the world on our schedule (if you haven’t learned this yet, just wait…you will), and realizing that sometimes He asks us to wait for what will be best for us. Allowing ourselves to adjust to His rhythms makes for a life with far less stress.

But how about for the artist? Is patience still a virtue? I believe so, but it may have a different face. Very few of us are privileged to have job offers lining up for the next couple of years. We need to be out looking for opportunities, creating work for ourselves to pay bills and keep busy. However, it can be very easy to confuse laziness for patience. Waiting to hear about a job can quickly turn into waiting for something to appear and suddenly we are not practicing patience: we are just being silly.

When we do finally get a job, we are often required to work with others. This always takes a certain amount of patience. Collaborations can be the most fruitful of projects, but can be the most challenging if we aren’t patient with each other. We each have different artistic languages, aspirations, and techniques. Making room for the dreams and methods of others allows us to create beautiful works together.

So, how do we become patient? For me, I’m sure this is going to be a lifelong process (especially when it comes to waiting to give someone a present I’m excited about). However, the best way to start is to just start acting patiently. Take a couple breaths when you feel impatient. Even if it feels like you aren’t being true to yourself to “be patient” when you want something now, consistent practice will turn even the most impatient artist into someone who could be called “patient.” Realizing that God has everything under control has helped me calm myself when I feel impatient. Find something that can ground you, and you are halfway there!

What do you think about patience? Is is something that comes easily to you, or do you struggle against it daily? Do you think it’s a virtue, like Aristotle believed, or does it hold us back from our true potential? I’ve voiced my opinion, but what is yours? Let me know!