Who remembers the delayed gratification/willpower Marshmallow study from Psych 101? Kids were given a marshmallow. If they could wait a period of time before they ate it, they could have an additional marshmallow. Some succeeded by ignoring the marshmallow, or licking it (but not eating it), or finding a way to distract themselves until the time had elapsed, and they could have their sweet, sweet reward.
The researchers followed up every few years with the study participants to see if their instant or delayed gratification could predict certain kinds of success at other tasks that also require patience. I gotta tell you, Psych 101 was a long time ago. I don’t remember what the predictions were, or whether they held up to scrutiny under the scientific method, even.
I saw a quote by Joyce Meyer recently: Patience is not simply the ability to wait, it’s how we behave while we’re waiting.
Well, yeah, when you say it like that…
Right now, my house is waiting to hear if Child got in to the Royal Military College. Mike is waiting for his IT people to set up his new computer so he can do his job. Some of us at $Dayjob are waiting for content reviews to come back. I wait for the dough to rise or the chicken to be cooked. We wait, patiently. We assign some arbitrary length of time that we’re willing to be patient in good humour: The dough should take an hour to double in bulk. The review feedback is due on Tuesday. I can totally wait 5 minutes for another marshmallow. Once that time elapses though, the patience dissipates quickly. Why is IT making a career of setting up this computer? The Green light isn’t getting any greener, dude. Where the f*ck is my f*cking marshmallow?? Frustration settles in on the fumes of the spent patience. Then, tempers. And snark and monkey slap fights. OK, maybe this last one doesn’t happen very often. But who doesn’t regularly troll Kijiji for a fighting octagon that will fit in your backyard? That’s totally normal, right?
I’ve been learning the hard lesson that patience is highly flammable. You think you have lots until you burn through it like magnesium flash. Sometimes, I’m smart enough to carry a reserve tank. But sometimes I can’t distill enough to fill it before I need it. So when frustration (which is also pretty unstable) shows up, it’s like a backdraft. I know to be careful, but it still catches me. Sometimes, when its done and I realize that I dropped my marshmallow into the flames. I’ve been trying to look at failed-patience situations with a keen eye to the lesson. So if there’s not some extra marshmallows to ease your burden, maybe, at least, you learn that sometimes you need to soak the kindling so it doesn’t catch every single spark. Maybe you learn how to ignite the patience with a match and not a blowtorch.
This Lent, may my patience be tempered with good behaviour whilst I wait. This Lent, may I learn to keep my marshmallows out of the campfire.