FORBEARANCE… Unlimited self-control

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We all know Isaac Newton, he who discovered the universal law of gravity. It is said that Newton had a dog – Diamond – that he was fond of. So much so that he even mentioned it in his book on the French revolution. Story goes that one day Newton went for a walk leaving behind his dog. His 20-year research work was on a table that also had a lighted candle. In his absence, the dog jumped on the table ultimately setting the papers on fire. Upon his return, Newton was shocked at the sight that met him: charred papers. But Newton did not kill his dog in the throes of anger. No, he patted it on its back and said, “O Diamond, you don’t know what you have done to my work.” He started writing all his work again.

We all know Isaac Newton, he who discovered the universal law of gravity. It is said that Newton had a dog – Diamond – that he was fond of. So much so that he even mentioned it in his book on the French revolution. Story goes that one day Newton went for a walk leaving behind his dog. His 20-year research work was on a table that also had a lighted candle. In his absence, the dog jumped on the table ultimately setting the papers on fire. Upon his return, Newton was shocked at the sight that met him: charred papers. But Newton did not kill his dog in the throes of anger. No, he patted it on its back and said, “O Diamond, you don’t know what you have done to my work.” He started writing all his work again.

If Newton lived in our time, he would have been given a medal for this rare act. This is because forbearance, or simply self-control, is elusive to many of us today. Call to mind the story of Jesus when he was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane. Simon Peter, one of Jesus’ disciples, struck at one of the high priest’s servant with a sword cutting off his ear. Unlike Peter, Jesus, whose life was on the line, was cool and collected. He reprimanded Peter and healed the man’s ear.

The above anecdotes serve to explain the true meaning of forbearance: the ability to exercise restraint and to stay in balance in the face of difficulty. It is the discipline to be measured and temperate in our response to trying moments. And it is definitely the ability to practice constraint and allowing thoughtful and wise steps to take precedence. See, life has a way of balancing itself and in every situation, there are always two kinds of excesses: the good and the evil. Forbearance is that virtue that helps us to be moderate: being neither too hot nor too cold.

Another aspect of forbearance is tolerance. Forbearance enables us to get along with any person regardless of their disposition or temperament. Without doubt, it takes a different kind of mettle to overlook another person’s shortcomings and keep composure but sometimes it is the best thing to do for the sake of peace. That kind of mettle is forbearance.

Forbearance means so much more than what the name suggests: bearing with a difficult situation. This is because forbearance is an all-inclusive virtue that not only includes patience, self-control and moderation but also kindness and gentleness. It also encompasses being submissive, loving, humble and content.

These are virtues that are indispensable today in a world characterised with too much anxiety, as everyone is anxious about one thing or the other: our jobs, our economy, our security, our families, our health and our future. We worry about everything. And yet, worry affects our relationships with people as it breaks trust. With forbearance, we are able to respond to such situations with patience and logic.

Forbearance is thus a sign of a person’s true strength and disposition. It is also a spiritual quality that each one of us should strive to achieve to enable us lead a peaceful life.

The real or supposed rights of man are of two kinds, active and passive; the right in certain cases to do as we wish; and the right we possess to the forbearance or assistance of other men.

William Godwin (1756-1836), English journalist, political philosopher and novelist

We should meet abuse by forbearance. Human nature is such that if we take absolutely no notice of anger or abuse, the person indulging in it will soon be weary of it.

Mahatma Gandhi (1869 – 1948), preeminent leader of the Indian independence movement in British-ruled India

When ambitious desires arise in thy heart, recall the days of extremity thou have passed through. Forbearance is the root of all quietness and assurance forever.

Tokugawa Ieyasu (1453-1616), founder and first shogun of the Tokugawa shogunate of Japan

A good youth ought to have a fear of God, to be subject to his parents, to give honour to his elders, to preserve his purity; he ought not to despise humility, but should love forbearance and modesty. All these are an ornament to youthful years.

Saint Ambrose (337AD – 397AD), Milan Bishop who became one of the most influential ecclesiastical figures of the 4th century

God, teach me to be patient, teach me to go slow. Teach me how to wait on You when my way I do not know. Teach me sweet forbearance when things do not go right so I remain unruffled when others grow uptight.

Hellen Steiner Rice (1900 – 1981), American writer of religious and inspirational poetry

Every day, we are faced with situations that provoke us. For example, your spouse may say or do something that annoys you and usually the first instinct is to inflict pain to them either through words or physical means. But with forbearance, we give ourselves time to cool down and do the right thing.

Ken Ng’ang’a, Building contractor

May 2016

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