One of the most difficult lessons we learn in life is that of patience. It is inevitable that your patience will be tested, but even in the most trying of times we need to stay calm and clear-headed in order to overcome.
This past weekend, I was once again reminded of the value of patience as a leadership model. I was camping with roughly 2,000 Boy Scouts at local park (my group was 54-strong). There were a wide range of activities available for the youth - everything from climbing walls to horse riding to a fire truck display and a rescue helicopter to sailboats and canoes. If you wanted to do something fun, chances were good that the available options would exhaust your creativity.
All the same, though, there came times where the plethora of activities wasn't enough to hold the attention of the 12-yr olds in camp ... and idle hands often get in trouble. It was hard to sit back at times and watch the youths make mistakes - dinner was put off so a card game could finish, clothing was left in walkways, dishes were left unclean. But we all know that experience is a greater educator than instruction, so (to a certain extent) we tried to be patient and let the Scouts come to their own realizations.
The ability to be patient is a gift. One that few of us are afforded, and one that is doled out in too thin a supply for my comfort. It's a skill I've had to learn, and one I'm always having to re-learn as one thing or another comes up and tempts me to anger and rash action rather than patience and clear thought. A Scout asked me yesterday, after a brief moment of chaos where we lost track of him and a few others, if I was mad at him for wandering off.
"No, I'm not really mad. I was just frustrated with what was going on."
"Really? I thought you were mad. They all said you'd be mad."
"Hey, you didn't get hurt and everything turned out just fine. And you aren't going to wander off like that again, are you?"
"Well, no ..."
"So what would I have to be mad about?"
"OK, just making sure."
My first instinct when a Scout (or anyone for whom I'm responsible) breaks a rule, disappears, or neglects to do something they're supposed to is to yell and raise hell about it. Deep down, I feel like I'd be right to be angry. I feel justified. Many times I'm talking myself into anger before I've had the opportunity to fully understand the situation. Once as an RA in college, a co-worker broke a rule I took to be vital to the safety of our residence hall. I yelled, I cursed, I held an 'emergency' meeting with my boss. Basically, I over-reacted. At the time, I felt justified. But in reality, no one was hurt by the incident - but my reaction to it strained the relationship between me and my co-worker (a good friend of mine, actually) so much that we haven't spoken since.
It took me years to learn patience, and I'd be lying to say I've learned it completely. But I can say, from personal experience, that being patient in a situation will always yield better results.
A hot-tempered man stirs up dissension, but a patient man calms a quarrel.
— Proverbs 15:18