The virtues of Patience and Temperance


The story is told of a man whose precious painting was inadvertently destroyed by his son. In extreme anger, the man grabbed his knife and chopped off three of his son’s right fingers. The son went through extreme pain but was lucky enough to be saved in time from death from over-bleeding by a nearby physician.

After returning from the physician’s place, the poor child looked at his now two-fingered right hand, looked up to his now remorseful father and asked in his little innocent voice, “Father, when will my fingers grow back?”


The pain that went through the man’s heart was too much for him to bear. Tears welled from his eyes as he quietly left his dingy room, moved to the nearest secluded tree and hanged himself. And such was the end of a man who let anger, fury and impatience rob him of his joy and very life.

Just a little patience

Patience has been defined as the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, problems, or suffering without becoming annoyed or anxious, and is a middle English word derived from the old French and Latin patienta, meaning suffering, itself derived from the verb pati.

In the words of Dr. Sidney Newton Bremer, as stated in his book, Success Achievement, either patience must be a quality graciously inherent in the heart of man, or it must be acquired as the lesson of years of experience, if he would enjoy the greatest good of life. He adds,

“Without it, prosperity will be consciously disturbed, and adversity would be doubly clouded; the loud complaint, the complaining temper and fretful spirit disgrace every character”.

Several benefits

He continues: “Afflictions supported by patience and surmounted by fortitude give the last finishing stroke to the heroic and virtuous character. Patience comforts the poor and moderates the rich; she makes us humble in prosperity, cheerful in adversity, unmoved by calumny, and above reproach; she teaches us to forgive those who have injured us, and to be the first in asking the forgiveness of those whom we have injured; she delights the faithful, and invites the unbelieving; she adorns the woman, approves the man; she is beautiful in either gender and every age.”[J1] 

Patience is a virtue that a whole lot of us could do with more of in our sojourn on earth.

It is quite unnerving to see just how much our youth are in a hurry to make wealth, and at all cost too! They seem to have forgotten that nothing worthwhile was ever done in a hurry. It took even the Almighty God six days to put things in the kind of order He wished in the process of creation, and remember that according to the Scriptures, with God, a thousand years are like a day, so who knows if it actually took God thousands of years to put things in the kind of order in which we all currently enjoy them?

The cankerworm of impatience

It is impatience that causes our youth to turn to examination malpractice, fraud, prostitution and even crime when faced with any substantial level of hardship. It is impatience that makes a married woman separate from her husband without just cause or worse still, undertake adulterous acts to ‘complement’ the ‘inadequate’ allowances she receives from her husband.

Yes, it was impatience that caused a landowner to abandon his search for gold on his piece of land and sell the land for a paltry sum – only for the buyer to strike gold with a few more meters of digging!

Nothing gives without patience

I said earlier that we could all do with a little more of the virtue called patience. Without patience and her twin sister, temperance, nothing gives. With patience, everything gives.

The Yorubas of Western Nigeria have a proverb that says, “With patience, you will cook even the hardest of rocks!”

At each seminar I have been privileged to facilitate, I have mentioned the virtues of patience, persistence and perseverance as sine qua non to successful achievement. I believe strongly that hard work, when not combined with these virtues, amongst others, is headed nowhere. This is one virtue which has not been found wanting in any of the truly great leaders humanity has been fortunate to be blessed with, either in business, religion or politics.