Home All Thoughts on Patience

Thoughts on Patience

written by Dana Arakawa 14 May 2008

Dana Arakawa, MAPP '06, has a Ph.D. in social psychology from the University of Hawaii. Before venturing into psychology, Dana graduated with honors from Georgetown University with a B.S. in International Economics, and spent a year in Buenos Aires, Argentina as a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar. Her research has appeared in the Gallup Management Journal and International Coaching Psychology Review, as well as in publications in Latin America. Full bio. Dana's articles are here.

Patience. It’s not one of the twenty-four strengths classified in Character Strengths and Virtues, by Christopher Peterson with Martin Seligman. The CSV (or anti DSM-IV), classifies specific strengths under six broad virtues that consistently emerge across history and culture: wisdom, courage, humanity, justice, temperance, and transcendence.

Discovering your Values-in-Action (VIA) strengths through VIA survey, sticks out in my mind as one of the key lessons in positive psychology. To increase your engagement (and therefore happiness), gain insight into your individual strengths, and find ways to use these strengths more in your daily life.

I remember a class taught by Chris Peterson in the Master of Applied Positive Psychology program, where we brainstormed the 25th strength, absent from the exhaustive search carried out by the CSV authors. Strengths such as tolerance and compassion were proposed and batted around; to be considered a strength, several criteria must be met, and I’m sure that patience was considered and somehow denied. However, recent events in my life have made me reconsider the virtue of patience, and come to a new appreciation of this under-appreciated but much needed strength.

Patience is not just a human strength

Patience is not just a human strength

In the CSV, perhaps patience is closest to the strength of “persistence (perseverance, industriousness): finishing what one starts, persisting in a course of action in spite of obstacles; ‘getting it out the door’; taking pleasure in completing tasks” (29). But that doesn’t quite capture it. Lately, patience has taken on a spiritual quality to me—an ability to trust that life works out as it should, to surrender to what is at the moment, while having faith in the future. It’s the ability to wait peacefully, when everything in you wants to rush forward, take action, do something.

The concept of surrender has always been tricky to me, difficult to do and to understand. To me, patience is in the service of surrendering. How do you “let go” and still have faith that things will work out how you want them to? Patience. Let me know if you have any thoughts on how to develop patience, or if you have other candidates for the under-appreciated 25th strength!


Peterson, C. & Seligman, M. (2004). Character strengths and virtues: A handbook and classification.. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Nature set – retrieved with the keyword patience courtesy of Lori Greig

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Jeff Dustin 15 May 2008 - 9:53 pm

What sticks out for me in the VIA classification is how our language is so nuanced. Take the word happiness. Maybe the dictionary has a clear-cut meaning for it. It sure seems like a piece of saltwater taffy in the real world.

Take patience. Is it a waiting room strength or linked to the larger issue of tolerance? I guess it has a negotiated meaning for whomever is involved.

Wayne Jencke 16 May 2008 - 6:47 am


I think you are talking about mindfulness.

Kathryn Britton 16 May 2008 - 10:12 am


I remember this exercise. I think I selected Endurance … which is certainly a close cousin to Patience, if not a great overlap.

Persistence is part of it, but misses a warmth and other-focus that are part of Patience. I associate the word Patience with good parental behavior and good teaching. Not rushing things that take time to unfold. I think I learned the word patience as a descriptive term for the way my mother sometimes was — and sometimes was not.

Mindfulness certainly overlaps Patience — with the ability to observe without judging. But I don’t think they are the same. Patience is more nurturing.

Of course, God didn’t hand Moses a tablet with the 24 strengths written on it. I sometimes think that there is a male bias in the 24 strengths that are in the first cut, not just because Marty and Chris are both male — after all, Katherine Dahlsgaard was instrumental in the early work and Nansook Park has also been very involved. But the very basis of the 24 strengths on philosophical and religious texts across time and place means relying on the points of view of people who were actors and instigators rather than the ones of the people who were patiently picking up the pieces and putting them back together (reminds me of Zainab Salbi’s description of the role of women during war — http://www.womenforwomen.org/zainab.htm).

Do you still have your Patience essay? Perhaps you could extend this post with the ways Patience matched the criteria for a strength.


Ernesto A. 6 June 2008 - 6:10 pm

I think patience best fits in with temperance. If we consider temperance (restraint/moderation in action, thought, or feeling), patience seems to be a particular manifestation of it. The impatience man is incapable of restraining themselves; something overcomes them. Endurance also seems to be a great fit as Kathryn points out.

Senia Maymin 9 June 2008 - 12:08 am

Ernesto, so you recommend that patience is closest to prudence? I’m pretty sure prudence is a temperance strength.
My best,

carl 8 November 2009 - 3:05 am

hi i am a south african who would like to opne the debate on patience in the context of the problem that exists locally . during the 1994 elections mention was made as to fee housing for the poor . clearly this is an impossability for a host of obvious reasons . our people are now told to be patient . how does one ” explain ” to the already impatient masses to be patient given that some have been waiting for 13 years for their free homw . based on the delivery stats to date a minimum of 10 years will need to be required to cater for the numbers of free homes TODAY . given that we are talking about a moving target { growth } who knows what the target will be then

thoughts …i am concerned

Dana 10 November 2009 - 12:21 am

Hi Carl,

Thank you very much for your post. The sensitive situation you described in South Africa reminds me of one of the criticisms of positive psychology, that it can’t deal with the ‘real problems’ of the world.

Honestly, it’s hard for me to answer your question, especially without knowing more about the situation. However, my first impression is that no one can tell or explain to the people who have been waiting for their homes to be more patient. In this situation, I think it’d be interesting to see what resources these people use to continue on, despite the failed promises of their government. Perhaps patience, however you define it, is one of the strengths that facilitates better adaptation in this circumstance.

Just a preliminary thought to a very complicated and thought provoking question…thank you for starting this discussion.


Bilal Philips 27 March 2010 - 2:19 pm

1,400 years ago Prophet Muhammad said, “One who pretends to be patient (for the sake of God) will be given the quality of patience by Allah.” (Sahih Al-Bukhari) Something like, “Practice makes perfect,” but to do so in this case it needs the commitment to a higher power, God, to successfully achieve it. I hope the advice is of some help in your quest.

farouk 23 April 2012 - 3:03 am

i am collecting information about patience these days
thanks for sharing this information with us


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