The translation of the original text is “slow to anger”. This one is easier to understand in light of our frustration with a president who seems to impulsively tweet instead of taking the advice so many are giving him to stop and take time to listen more carefully and respond more thoughtfully and maturely. We previously discussed that there are character traits that are non-academic that are imperative to learning, here we are discussing one of the most important ones.
Anger does not only manifest in the extreme of anger and rage. It comes under many guises such as frustration, impatience, quitting, and interrupting. If you are interrupting you are not listening to what the other person is saying because you are too busy listening to your self. You cannot learn this way.
We all know that frustration is a part of life and learning how to handle frustration graciously will make your life, and those that deal with you, a happier one. Even better is to learn to embrace the opportunity frustration offers. It is important to recognize that you need to be stimulated to feel alive. Feeling challenged by something you think you can overcome gives you that sense of stimulation. If something is too easy you will feel bored. As teachers and therapists, we learn the sequences of academic and developmental steps and are trained to foster learning by presenting material that is just above our student’s current level, but not too high above so that they feel overwhelmed and quit. As we have mentioned many times we want to spend a life time learning. To do so we need to keep challenging our self. A great place to do so would be in not only handling frustration graciously, but taking it to the next level and enjoying it.
Sounds shocking? Enjoy frustration?!?
You already do when it is in the right dosage, you just didn’t realize it.
A great example of this, which I learned from the late R’ Noah Weinberg z”tl, is the jigsaw puzzle. You buy a jigsaw puzzle, typically one you think you will enjoy, whether that is 500 pieces or 5000. Imagine your disappointment if you opened the box and all the pieces were numbered, taking away your challenge. Would you be happy that your challenge was removed and you can now finish and frame the puzzle in mere minutes? Probably not or you would have bought a picture instead of a puzzle. You may have had a similar experience being in a waiting room with your child. You spot the Highlights and turn to the Hidden Pictures to solve with your child. Are you happy or disappointed if the hidden items are already circled? So you see we do enjoy frustration, when we choose the frustration in a dosage that is challenging but achievable.
While we cannot necessarily control the level of challenge we are exposed to in life, we can choose our attitude. We can learn to enjoy the opportunity to rise to the challenge, exhibit self-control and respond graciously more often rather than finding the challenge frustrating. If you keep your eyes open you might be pleasantly surprised to find how much more you learn and how the perceived frustration does not turn out (as badly) as expected with a little patience in letting things take its course. With today’s amazing technology providing instant gratification at every turn patience has become an even harder commodity to come by. Fast food not fast enough? Use the microwave or instant hot water from a dedicated faucet on the sink so you don’t have to take the time to boil water. No patience to hail a tax? Use an app to get an Uber instantly. Can’t wait for the contract to be delivered? Fax or email it over.
With a slight pause at the right time you can switch impatient to I’m patient.