The Virtue of Patience

Bill & Lois in Their Stepping Stones Garden

That recovery is a process, that change is gradual, that it’s one day at a time, that our aim is spiritual progress—all these things speak of the need for patience as we work the Steps. We are setting out to establish new habits, and these require repeated practice over a very long time.

This is especially the case with the inventory Steps, 4–10, where we “patiently and persistently tr[y] to correct” (12&12, S10, p. 88) the wrongs that we have found, admitted, and accepted in ourselves, surrendering those defects, asking for their removal, making amends, and practicing their counterparts in the virtues in all that we do. Even as we do this, “we shall have to be content with patient improvement” (S6, p. 65).

Patience with ourselves works closely with acceptance, perseverance, and hope. Patience with others works together with tolerance, forbearance, and acceptance again, all grounded in the understanding that we share basic human afflictions and a common spiritual illness.


[Image: Bill and Lois in their Stepping Stones garden. When Bill writes in the Big Book (p. 82) that passing all understanding is the patience wives have had with alcoholics, he was speaking from personal experience. For Lois's autobiography, see Lois Remembers: Memoirs of the Co-founder of Al-Anon and Wife of the Co-Founder of Alcoholics Anonymous.]


Big Book
"We have begun to learn tolerance, patience, and good will toward all men, even our enemies, for we look on them as sick people." – Big Book  

12&12
"Could we then foresee that troublesome people were to become our principal teachers of patience and tolerance?" – 12&12   

Life Recovery Bible"But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.” – Romans 8:25
“Love is patient." – 1 Corinthians 13:4   

Heraclitus
"Good character is not formed in a week or a month. It is created little by little, day by day. Protracted and patient effort is needed to develop it." – Heraclitus

Thomas à Kempis"Endeavor to be always patient of the faults and imperfections of others; for thou hast many faults and imperfections of thine own that require forbearance. If thou art not able to make thyself that which thou wishest, how canst thou expect to mold another in conformity to thy will?" – Thomas à Kempis 

Augustine"A man's patience is that whereby he bears evil with an even mind lest he abandon with an uneven mind the goods whereby he may advance to better things.”
– St. Augustine  

Leonardo da Vinci"Patience serves as a protection against wrongs as clothes do against cold. For if you put on more clothes as the cold increases, it will have no power to hurt you. So in like manner you must grow in patience when you meet with great wrongs, and they will then be powerless to vex your mind." – Leonardo da Vinci 

St. Francis de Sales "Have patience with all things, but chiefly have patience with yourself. Do not lose courage in considering your own imperfections, but instantly set about remedying them. Every day begin the task anew." – St. Francis de Sales    

Rainer Maria Rilke
"If you are patient in one moment of anger, you will escape a hundred days of sorrow." – Rainer Maria Rilke   

Robert H. Schuller"Never cut a tree down in the wintertime. Never make a negative decision in the low time. Never make your most important decisions when you are in your worst moods. Wait. Be patient. The storm will pass. The spring will come." – Robert H. Schuller   

William Shakespeare
"How poor are they that have not patience! What wound did ever heal but by degrees?” – William Shakespeare  

Charlotte Brontë"It is far better to endure patiently a smart which nobody feels but yourself, than to commit a hasty action whose evil consequences will extend to all connected with you." – Charlotte Brontë  

Elbert Hubbard
"How many a man has thrown up his hands at a time when a little more effort, a little more patience, would have achieved success." – Elbert Hubbard  

Carl Jung"Even a happy life cannot be without a measure of darkness, and the word happy would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness. It is far better to take things as they come along, with patience and equanimity." – Carl Jung   

James S. Spiegel"Patience with God involves faith, and to exercise faith is to surrender final control of one’s life. To lack faith is to give in to one’s desire for control. So our patience with God will only be as strong as our ability to overcome this desire and surrender every aspect of our lives." – James S. Spiegel

AA slogan
"This too shall pass." 
 – AA Slogan

Night Light"Patience means waiting for people, places, and things beyond our control. Patience means letting go and trusting that a Higher Power is in control." – Night Light

ODAT
"Impatience with others only generates their impatience with me." – One Day at a Time in Al-Anon  

Daily Reflections"In every situation, I am responsible for the effort and God is responsible for the outcome. I can ‘Let Go and Let God’ by humbly repeating, ‘Thy will, not mine, be done.' Patience and persistence in seeking his will for me will free me from the pain of selfish expectations." – A.A.’s Daily Reflections  

PTP123"When we consistently seek to bring peace to relationships and situations, practicing this virtue of harmony will help us grow in patience and tolerance."
– PTP123   

PTP123
"A forgiving heart fosters the virtues of tolerance and patience, which in turn further the ability to accept." – PTP123  

Practice These: Patience - Anonymous
Practice These: Patience - Ovid

For more Big Book and 12&12 passages on patience, click on 164andmore.com and search patience and its cognates. See also Can I Put You on Hold?, in Reflections.

See also: In All Our Affairs: Practicing Patience

Additional Resources

  1. “Waiting without Complaint: The Virtue of Patience,” chapter in How to Be Good in a World Gone Bad: Living a Life of Christian Virtue, by James S. Spiegel
  2. "Patience vs. Passivity," entry in The One-Minute Philosopher, by Montague Brown

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