I took a walk today in the local park. A bearded man and his tee-shirted wife walked toward me in conversation. As they got closer, he asked her, “And how many of these frustrations are self-inflicted?” Mrs. Beard threw her hands up and said, “Oh, I imagine the majority of them!”
It doesn’t matter who they were talking about, because it applies to most of us.
The virtue of patience is required to rise above frustrating situations. Frustration robs us of our peace, so the antidote — patience — is a habit worth cultivating. The first thing to realize is that no one makes us act angrily. We have a choice of how to behave. Sometimes patience means simply that we don’t say anything while our blood is boiling. I once asked a man whom no annoyance seemed to bother how he did it. He said he counts to ten and then repeats, “All will be well” as many times as it takes to cool down.
A lot of self-inflicted frustration comes from focusing on the past or the future. First, memories of past annoyances sully our view of what is happening now, as in, “She always criticizes what I eat.” So when we sit down to lunch with this person, we’re halfway frustrated and she hasn’t said a word yet. The second kind comes when reality contradicts our expectations, like thinking our friend will pay for lunch because we watched her dog last week and then getting mad when she doesn’t.
The old advice to “live in the moment” applies here. There will always be plenty of unavoidable frustrations that try our patience, so the more we decrease the self-inflicted kind, the more peace we will have to enjoy and share with those around us.