For those who are impatient...

Error message

Are you impatient? I am and I found this section of Gregory's Pastoral Care convicting and helpful:

(Admonition 10.) Differently to be admonished are the impatient and the patient. For the impatient are to be told that, while they neglect to bridle their spirit, they are hurried through many steep places of iniquity which they seek not after, inasmuch as fury drives the mind whither desire draws it not, and, when perturbed, it does, not knowing, what it afterwards grieves for when it knows. The impatient are also to be told that, when carried headlong by the impulse of emotion; they act in some ways as though beside themselves, and are hardly aware afterwards of the evil they have done; and, while they offer no resistance to their perturbation, they bring into confusion even things that may have been well done when the mind was calm, and overthrow under sudden impulse whatever they have haply long built up with provident toil. For the very virtue of charity, which is the mother and guardian of all virtues, is lost through the vice of impatience. For it is written, Charity is patient (1 Cor. xiii. 4). Wherefore where patience is not, charity is not...

Through this vice of impatience, too; instruction, the nurse of virtues, is dissipated. For it is written, The instruction of a man is known by his patience (Prov. xix. 1 1). Every man, then, is shewn to be by so much less instructed as he is convicted of being less patient. For neither can he truly impart what is good through instruction, if in his life he knows not how to bear what is evil in others with equanimity.

Further, through this vice of impatience for the most part the sin of arrogance pierces the mind; since, when anyone is impatient of being looked down upon in this world, he endeavours to shew off any hidden good, that he may have, and so through impatience is drawn on to arrogance; and, while he cannot bear contempt, he glories ostentatiously in self-display. Whence it is written, Better is the patient than the arrogant (Eccles. vii. 9); because, in truth, one that is patient chooses to suffer any evils whatever rather than that his hidden good should come to be known through the vice of ostentation. But the arrogant, on the contrary, chooses that even pretended good should be vaunted of him, lest he should possibly suffer even the least evil.

Since, then, when patience is relinquished, all other good things also that have been done are overthrown, it is rightly enjoined on Ezekiel that in the altar of God a trench be made; to wit, that in it the whole burnt-offerings laid on the altar might be preserved (Ezek. xliii. 13). For, if there were not a trench in the altar, the passing breeze would scatter every sacrifice that it might find there. But what do we take the altar of God to be but the soul of the righteous man, which lays upon itself before His eyes as many sacrifices as it has done good deeds? And what is the trench of the altar but the patience of good men, which, while it humbles the mind to endure adversities, shews it to be placed low down after the manner of a ditch? Wherefore let a trench be made in the altar, lest the breeze should scatter the sacrifice laid upon it: that is, let the mind of the elect keep patience, lest, stirred with the wind of impatience, it lose even that which it has wrought well. Well, too, this same trench is directed to be of one cubit, because, if patience fails not, the measure of unity is preserved.

Whence also Paul says, Bear ye one another's burdens, and so ye shall fulfil the law Christ (Galat. vi. 2). For the law of Christ is the charity of unity, which they alone fulfil who are guilty of no excess even when they are burdened. Let the impatient hear what is written, Better is the patient than the mighty, and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh cities (Prov. xvi. 32). For victory over cities is a less thing, because that which is subdued is without; but a far greater thing is that which is conquered by patience, since the mind itself is by itself overcome, and subjects itself to itself, when patience compels it to bridle itself within. Let the impatient hear what the Truth says to His elect; In your patience ye shall possess your souls (Luke xxi. 19). For we are so wonderfully made that reason possesses the soul, and the soul the body. But the soul is ousted from its right of possession of the body, if it is not first possessed by reason. Therefore the Lord pointed out patience as the guardian of our state, in that He taught us to possess ourselves in it. Thus we learn how great is the sin of impatience, through which we lose the very possession of what we are.

Let the impatient hear what is said again through Solomon; A fool uttereth all his mind, but a wise man putteth it off, and reserves it until afterwards (Prov. xxix. 11). For one is so driven by the impulse of impatience as to utter forth the whole mind, which the perturbation within throws out the more quickly for this reason, that no discipline of wisdom fences it round. But the wise man puts it off, and reserves it till afterwards. For, when injured, he desires not to avenge himself at the present time, because in his tolerance he even wishes that men should be spared; but yet he is not ignorant that all things are righteously avenged at the last judgment.

- Gregory, Pastoral Care, Part III, Chapter 10: "How the impatient and the patient are to be admonished." Text. Audio.

Tim Bayly

Tim serves Clearnote Church, Bloomington, Indiana. He and Mary Lee have five children and big lots of grandchildren.

Want to get in touch? Send Tim an email!