FORBEARANCE is this week’s F-word. It was in competition with the most horrible four- letter F word I know: FEAR. I chose the word forbearance because of the inspiration I received from today’s political situation. Forbearance encourages patience and self-restraint as preferable to declarations of national emergencies when politics takes precedence over tolerance. My favorite expressions of the gifts of forbearance come from the Bible (Hebrew scriptures and the New Testament) and one of my favorite classical philosophies, Stoicism. This blog will introduce forbearance’s gifts and challenges, historically and for today and the future.
Patient self-control, restraint, tolerance, fortitude, endurance, clemency, long-suffering, stoicism, leniency…these are the words that constitute forbearance. There are legal and financial definitions for the word forbearance as in regard to a mortgage, loan, or legal consideration; however, those material aspects of this word belong to another writer. The qualities of forbearance that I especially value are patience and forgiveness.
Forbearance can mean “waiting it out”, observing the unfolding of situation and expression. It can mean, “No matter what happens, I am here. I am committed to being present through anything, no matter how long it takes or how difficult things become.” Forbearance can mean I suffer long and I choose to wait because it is the right, constant, and forbearing course of being and action. Forbearance requires trust and fortitude.
Patience and self-control. Tolerance. I don’t observe a plethora of these attributes in the drama manifesting as our national and world leadership. How to respond in the course of what I experience? I respond in the manner I want to experience (Gandhi’s “Be the Change.”). The only viable choice for me—short of desperation desertion or aggressive againstness—is forbearance and prayer.
In the Bible, forbearance refers to a godly character trait: To forgive, abstain from revenge, vengeance, and wrong-doing; to control anger, disharmonious emotion, unkindness, the pursuit of discord and violence: the mantle of forbearance is a gracious cloak to wear and carry through life. Manifesting as endurance, tolerance, moderation, gentleness…Forbearance is a desirable trait according to Hebrew scripture and New Testament alike. In the great commandment, we are called to love God—heart, mind, body, and soul. Forbearance is one of the qualities empowering us to give from our best for the greater glory of all that God commands, inspires, and blesses into our becoming beloved servants of and for the highest good.
I recently read a story about Confucius. He was once asked by a student if there were a single word to live by in his life’s quest for truth and spiritual guidance. Confucius replied, “chu”, which translates as ‘forbearance’. The stoic philosopher, Epictetus was asked which words would help a person lead a good, peaceful life. His answers were translated as “bear” and “forbear.” His words could also be translated as “persist” and “resist”.
If I “keep on keeping on”, think, act, and feel righteously, choose to be positive, avoid negativity, temptation, flagellation, and attack, I am living into the forbearance that brings grace and healing to my world.
I’ve always felt that my two scriptures to live by were the Great Commandment (Deuteronomy 6 and Matthew 22:36-40) and Philippians 4: What is the most important thing in my life? (Great Commandment) How do I best live this most important thing? (Philippians 4). Forbearance is a big piece in the puzzle of learning how to be who I am called to be. Not always easy, and definitely worth it for yours truly.
How can I live with forbearance today?
Philippians 4:5-7: “Let all men know your forbearance. The Lord is at hand. Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds…”