"Center of the Universe" Syndrome vs. Patience

This year our family is experimenting with having a monthly virtue we work on and learn about.  I say experimenting because we will see how this goes…J  This month’s theme is patience.  Everyone in my family can use some work on this, but I won’t embarrass anyone and go into details how (at least not yet.)   Being a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, naturally I looked to see if there were any speeches given recently on this topic to help motivate us and better understand patience.  WOW!!  There was an awesome speech given in May 2010 called “Continue in Patience” by one of my favorite speakers, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf (he is an older, rather dashing man who talks with a cool accent) which I’ve listened to or read at least 5 times this month, and still feel like I’m learning more each time.

When he was 10 years old his family became refugees in West Germany.  Besides living in poverty during a challenging time politically, he also was now in a new school with new histories, geographies and languages to learn.  Tthere were times he wondered if he “was simply not smart enough for school.”  There were moments he “truly believed (his) tongue was not made to speak English.”  Knowing now that this man has become an accomplished pilot, speaker in front of millions, and guest to leaders of several countries,  it was incredible to me to learn that there were times he didn’t feel smart.  There were times he doubted himself.  What if he had given up?  Millions of people would never have heard his great stories and uplifting messages!  Or seen his contagious smile!  Or heard his cool accent!  But fortunately he had a teacher who taught him to be patient. 

He says…

Fortunately I had a teacher who taught me to be patient. He taught me that steady and consistent work—patient persistence—would help me to learn.

Over time, difficult subjects became clearer—even English. Slowly I began to see that if I applied myself consistently, I could learn. It didn’t come quickly, but with patience, it did come.

From that experience, I learned that patience was far more than simply waiting for something to happen—patience required actively working toward worthwhile goals and not getting discouraged when results didn’t appear instantly or without effort.

There is an important concept here: patience is not passive resignation, nor is it failing to act because of our fears. Patience means active waiting and enduring. It means staying with something and doing all that we can—working, hoping, and exercising faith; bearing hardship with fortitude, even when the desires of our hearts are delayed. Patience is not simply enduring; it is enduring well!

Impatience, on the other hand, is a symptom of selfishness. It is a trait of the self-absorbed. It arises from the all-too-prevalent condition called “center of the universe” syndrome, which leads people to believe that the world revolves around them and that all others are just supporting cast in the grand theater of mortality in which only they have the starring role.

In my home I often am that person with “center of the universe” syndrome who believes she’s been cast with the ONLY starring role.  After all, we all heard the phrase “if Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy!” and I do believe there’s some truth to that.  At the same time, trying to get EVERYONE (husband included) to do what YOU say ALL the time, isn’t that happy either.

For example, there have been times this week the kids have been playing great and I’ve happened to walk by a bedroom and see dirty clothes on the floor.  We are really trying hard to keep clothes in “dressers or hampers” so I’ve found myself yelling, “Michael!  Please put your P.J.’s away!”  Usually this is met with some arguing that they’re “almost finished” with their game, and then I go on…and then they whine but they do it, but then there’s a consequence for whining  and that magical moment of playtime has been spoiled.  The clothes are picked up, but nobody is better for it- not even the home, which now has a melancholy feeling. 

Instead of instigating this train wreck, lately I’ve decided to just let it go for a few minutes.  Will it be the end of all household perfection if I wait 5 minutes to give him a gentle reminder?  No.  Will we all be happier in the long run?  Yes.  Because I will get to hear them play and laugh together and they will have become a little closer as brother and sister.  Once I hear a pause in the game or a moment of transition then I say, “Hey, before you start that can you please pick up your P.J.’s, and then you can keep playing.”  To some, this might be “giving in” but I consider it a compromise.  I consider it being patient.

There have been times in my parenting where like President Uchtdorf, I felt I just wasn’t meant to_______ (fill in the blank.)  But just like he had a patient teacher, I do too.  God is my teacher.  My kids and  my husband are my teacher.  Even my own mind is teaching me that it may not come quickly, but it will come.  It is NOT all about me.

Before when I worked out, it was an EXTREME “do not bug me, I’m exercising!” time.  Is this realistic for an hour with 3 kids under 7?  No way!  For a while I just gave up working out because it was so frustrating to attempt it and be interrupted and interrupted and interrupted.  “You have TV and candy!  Can’t you take care of yourselves for a bit?!”  Sigh.  But we’ve found a good middle-ground now.   They know to be patient and not ask help for every little thing, but I am also patient too and willing to pause my video at least a couple times to still be “mom.”  That is the job I care MOST about anyway.

Thinking bigger picture, by having a more patient attitude towards myself I have been happier both inside and out, which in turn really does makes everyone happy.  The most important thing is that we (like the name of his speech) “Continue in Patience” or in other words, “just keep swimming!”  

So now, when my kids are driving me crazy I tell myself, “these are your teachers of Patience” and it makes me more grateful for them.  They cannot MAKE ME get upset, only I can let them or even better, I can let them teach me patience.  Try it out.  Try it at work.  Try it with your husband or co-worker.   Try it in line at the grocery store.  You might be pleasantly surprised.