Patience. It is one of the very first things we are taught to practice in our lives. “Wait for your brother to be done playing with that toy”, our moms instructed. “Be patient, the storm will pass”, our dads told us after our first heartbreak. “Persevere longer than your opponent, and you will be the victor”, our coaches taught us every practice and competition.
Patience is a constant, and integral part of our lives. Every modern day gentleman must be intentional to exercise this important virtue regularly. Whether that is by recognizing existing areas of your life in which patience is already being practiced, or by introducing new areas that require you understand the art of patience in a whole new way.
Patience is a fairly broad canopy under which many other important gentlemanly virtues lie; perseverance, faithfulness, loyalty, trust. They are all called for at different times in a gentleman’s life. Each of the aforementioned can be practiced regularly if you are intentional to place things into your life that call for them.
In this week’s article, I want to discuss one of them with you.
These amazing creations are some of the most fascinating works of art, in my opinion. If you are completely foreign to the term, let me familiarize you to it briefly.
Here is an excerpt from Wikipedia to give you some overview:
“Bonsai is a Japanese art form using miniature trees grown in containers. The Japanese tradition dates back over a thousand years, and has its own aesthetics and terminology.”…”The purposes of bonsai are primarily contemplation (for the viewer) and the pleasant exercise of effort and ingenuity (for the grower). By contrast with other plant cultivation practices, bonsai is not intended for production of food or for medicine. Instead, bonsai practice focuses on long-term cultivation and shaping of one or more small trees growing in a container.”
The last 2 sentences in that description are key components to understanding the heart behind this ancient art. Unlike other plants, bonsai trees are grown and cultivated for the purposes of contemplation and ingenuity, among other things.
I work in IT for my “day job”, and it is a world where everything lives and operates on the cutting edge. Every deadline is yesterday, and the industry is always moving faster than it seems your own innovation can take you and your team. It’s a world of instant gratification with little need (or room) for patience, stillness, and thoughtful action.
I’ve recently begun caring for a Bonsai tree of my own, and it’s been a wonderful exercise in the virtues I get little practice of at work.
In my everyday life, if I want something, I can buy it. If I want to speak with someone, I can text them. If I want to see what a polar bear’s favorite food is, I can google it. When caring for a bonsai tree, there is no such thing as immediate feedback, or instant attainment of what you want.
For example, if your tree has grown too full with leaves on the ends of its branches, the inside leaves will be starved for sunlight and will die. To allow light to distribute evenly throughout a tree’s branches, you must constantly be watching for areas that need pruning, and trimming. You must know your tree intimately and know exactly how it responds to certain kinds of cuts and remedies. As you learn this about your specific tree, you can tend to its needs more and more effectively. But…to my broader point…each action takes many days, or weeks, to fully take effect and for you to see its benefits.
There are some situations in which the soil can become so damaged that you need to remove your tree from its current pot and place it in an entirely new bed of fresh soil. After this repotting process, you are supposed to wait a full year before you can expect it to produce anything again. A year!
I challenge you to think of one example in your life in which you took an action, and had to wait a full year before you could see the result. The areas where that is possible are becoming fewer and further between. I believe there is great benefit in that act of waiting. In the careful attention you must pay to every detail as you repot your tree. It takes great trust to not dig back into the soil to ensure the roots are growing well, and to believe that you performed the task with excellence so that it will grow back stronger than before. These things are, in many ways, extremely counter-cultural to what we see in our day-to-day experiences. We will not be given these opportunities regularly. They rarely present themselves to us. We, as gentlemen in this modern day, must be intentional to insert these activities and experiences into our lives.There is much to learn in the practice of waiting. Click To Tweet
So, dear reader, as you tend to your families, perform your jobs, invest in your friendships, or simply sit in thoughtful contemplation, remember that the waiting is worthwhile. In whatever context you are being called to exercise patience, instead of viewing it as an inconvenience, attempt to see it as a season of your own “pruning”.
Perhaps the leaves residing on the outside of your branches are becoming too full. Perhaps you are allowing (or even forcing) your day-to-day to grow so heavy with “stuff” that you are starving the core of who you are. If we are not careful, we are all-too-ready to deny the most important parts of ourselves of the sunlight that it needs. I implore you to guard against that temptation. Allow yourself to be trimmed of the unnecessary busyness and clutter in your lives. Those seasons are difficult, but they are important. Provide nutrients to your core values and virtues and you will surely see the roots of your life grow deeper into the soil and provide a stronger foundation from which you can lead and impact others.Allow yourself to be trimmed of the unnecessary busyness and clutter in your lives. Click To Tweet
So go, gentlemen. Go out into the world and grow. Grow vigorously and quickly, but without compromise. Stay trimmed of the temporary and fleeting so that you may have time, space, and room for the meaningful and lasting to flourish.