Engineering Patience In An Age of Instant Gratification

Growing up in Texas, summers as a kid were unbelievably hot. One of my kids recently asked me, “Why did Allah make Texas so hot?” I told them not even the greatest country in the world can be completely perfect.

I remember reading a book, and the kids in there were arguing over who got to sit near the window. I was confused. Why would they want to sit next to the window? I was accustomed to wanting to sit in the middle because that was directly in front of the vents blasting cold air from the AC. This was especially important if the car had been parked outside and had become an oven when you went to sit inside.

My dad used to do something that would drive me crazy. He would start the car and not turn on the AC. He would let the fan run, and tell us we could roll down the windows (which doesn’t do much when its 95 degrees). I would plead with him to turn on the AC on max, and he would just sit there and tell me to relax. Once, with the creativity only a kid could muster, I told him “Allah blessed us with AC, so turn it on.” He explained that he was trying to teach us to relax, and to be patient.

This is how parents are. They see the ease with which we enjoy the world, and we lose sight of hardships others went through. In many places in the world, especially 20 years ago, air conditioning in a car was a major luxury item instead of a standard part of life.

Now when someone complains about a YouTube video buffering too slow (or not fast enough for HD), I feel like yelling at them to try using a 28.8kbps dial-up connection – the kind I had to grow up with. In fact, a study of the viewing habits of 6.7 million people showed that people abandoned watching a video if it buffered for longer than two seconds. TWO SECONDS. One Mississippi, Two Mississippi… click.

Social media has made everything quicker. What used to be a 24 hour news cycle is now barely 30 minutes. The half-life of a tweet is less than 3 hours. With this quickening of pace, our expectations have changed as well. If someone doesn’t reply to an email within a few hours we get upset. If they don’t respond to a text message within an hour, we get impatient. There is a manufactured hurry to each of these interactions.

Patience and gratitude go hand in hand. Patience, as we famously know from the hadith, is at the moment calamity strikes. To have patience in that moment requires a gratitude mindset. It comes down to being cognizant and intentional about each situation – Am I exercising patience? Am I being grateful to Allah?

One way to reclaim this is to engineer moments of patience in our lives. Sit at a red light without touching your phone. It’s only 30 seconds, but we are at the point now where the mere thought of that is agonizing for some. Sit down with your kids and just be bored for a little while. Reflect on what is around you and enjoy the quiet moments.

The fast pace of technology is now the norm. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. But it does mean that sometimes we just need to sit in the car for a few minutes before turning on the AC – to give ourselves a small reminder and lesson.

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