Do you ever get your feathers ruffled by things outside of your control? I know I sure do from time to time. Sometimes we are waiting for some kind of result of a test or an interview and with time the patience dwindles. We sit there on pins and needles checking email every five seconds and looking to make sure we didn't miss a phone call. Other times we are hoping for someone's behavior to change. Maybe your spouse is messy or never fills the gas tank in the car. We think, "When will (s)he start taking out the trash or cleaning the dishes?" There are all kinds of behavioral things people do that irritate others that are completely out of our control.
After spending plenty of energy trying to affect outcomes of things that were out of my control, I finally decided to take my challenge to my mentor, Rhonda Shasteen, to see what she thought.
"What is the difference between patience and tolerance?" I asked her. It was something I'd been thinking about for a while, so I was pleasantly surprised when Rhonda just knew the answer as if it we as simple as adding two and two. As we addressed the question in my session, without stopping to ponder, she perked up in her chair and said that patience has to do with time and tolerance has to do with putting up with something.
When we have to be patient, we are waiting. We can be waiting for a result or for a situation to play out. We can be waiting for another person to process a challenging event or their emotions about an argument. Waiting can be a pain, but patience is something that can be practiced and learned. I know because I'm working on it and aim to continue growing patience for the rest of my life.
When we are putting up with something out of our control, we are tolerating it. When we hear about tolerance, it tends to be in the context of cultural and religious tolerance. That is very important, but for this example, I'm referring to the tolerance in a relationship between two people. There is a limit to the amount undesirable behavior we can tolerate before we draw the line and address the situation. When it comes to tolerance, you may have to repeatedly accept the things you cannot change. I know I encounter things I can't change, and there are some things in my life I must tolerate. Upon deeper reflection, I decided I'd rather tolerate a person's behavior rather than not have them in my life at all, even if I don't always feel that way for a few minutes out of the day.
Overall, I am working on practicing both patience and tolerance and hope they increase over my lifetime. I invite you to join me in this journey because you can!