I can be very patient with people in practical ways, especially people with disabilities; I have no problem calmly sorting out what my sister Linda is trying to explain, or taking time while feeding my Mom. But if my computer acts up, or something is broken, I go ballistic.
Paul is extremely impatient with bad drivers, and yells at both incompetent football players and politicians on the t.v. screen. But he's extremely patient and mechanically-minded when it comes to fixing things. Paul immediately comes into the study if he hears my scream of impatient anguish because I pushed the wrong computer button and something important disappeared.
We've learned to be patient with each other's impatience. Paul will counsel me to calm down and keep trying if we have a mechanical issue, then go ahead and calmly fix it himself. I have schooled myself to not react when he blows up by yelling - in our car - at another driver - or when he yells at the t.v. screen. But it's taken years to get to the point of acceptance, to be patient instead of prickly. And we still sometimes explode at each other's faults and idiosyncrasies.
God shows us the way, through His endless patience with us. "...with the Lord one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like one day....he is patient with you, not wishing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance." (2 Peter 3: 8 - 9)
So often, with family members and friends, we believe that they've made bad or stupid life decisions and we want to tell them to change their minds, do it our way. We might loathe someone's new boyfriend or spouse. We privately think someone else's politics or religion are hopelessly wrong-headed. But it's kindest - and wisest - to avoid any accusatory discussion that will turn into a verbal fight that will turn into a rift, a division. The main exception to this is the need to speak up if we think that someone is being abused.
I've heard it said that "If some people are problems in your life, just don't keep them in your life." Sometimes, that's true - if someone is abusive or refuses to accept your boundaries. But there are some people who simply test our patience, whom God has sent into our lives because they need our steady support and we need to have our patience tested so that we can truly become patient. As God is patient every day with us.
Over our lifetimes, God is patiently teaching us how to respect other people's free will and free choices, how to perhaps say gently that we disagree, but always to keep on loving, and keep them in our lives. After all, God accepts our choices - and works with them. Jesus shows us God's attitude. "Jesus' attitude is striking: we do not hear the words of scorn, we do not hear words of condemnation, but only words of love, of mercy, which are an invitation to conversation." (Pope Francis)
If we give someone else love and non-judgmental support, we can do so in a deep trust that their life path will eventually take them where they are meant by God to go. And sometimes, later on, we are mightily surprised to discover that someone made the right choice after all, in spite of our initial misgivings. God DOES write straight in crooked and impenetrable lines.
Over our lifetimes, God is also patiently teaching us that our churches are also pilgrims, struggling to grow in their knowledge of Christ and His ways. Each church has its own charisms and can learn from its sister churches. Sometimes God asks us to be patient and merciful with our churches, to encourage them to grow, often by our own example, rather than to angrily or self-righteously cut them out of our lives.
During these weeks of waiting for Jesus' birth, we remember the Jewish people who patiently waited hundreds upon hundreds of years for a promised Messiah. We realize that we too are asked to wait for our Messiah to act in our lives and our loved ones' lives, to lead us all along the right paths for us even if to our limited vision they appear to be the wrong ones, to give us fresh courage and joy when we are lost in darkness and bitterness.
After all, God chooses to be patient with us and continually guide us because God desires that all His children be saved. Our patient, loving support of others is a sign to them of God's never-ending desire to bring them home to His Fatherly embrace.
Rest always in the Lord. Ask for the gift, the virtue, of patient waiting. But realize He'll give you the virtue through sending you people who'll try your patience - and transform your prickliness to patient love.