From The Wife Desired, Fr. Leo Kinsella
Webster’s Dictionary has this to say about patience. Patience is “uncomplaining endurance of wrongs or misfortunes.” Patience “denotes self-possession, especially under suffering or provocation.” It also suggests “quiet waiting for what is expected” or persistence in what has been begun. Forbearance, leniency, and sufferance are given as synonyms.
Patience is a quality of maturity. Little children are not noted for “uncomplaining endurance of wrongs.” Mother would begin looking for the thermometer should she notice anything resembling “quiet waiting for what is expected.” It takes a bit of living and dodging of the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,” before people get enough sense to value patience.
Patience connotes a “self-possession, especially under suffering or provocation,” and it brings to one a quiet confidence. The patient wife is master of her own soul. She, and not every imp to come flying into her mind, is in charge of her own fort.
Since no one can be truly successful without patience, it should be expected that the possession of the virtue is a requisite for every desired wife.
Indeed, no vocation or profession in life requires patience more than that of husband and wife.
The first reason for this that they live in such proximity to each other. They rub elbows day in and day out. There is bound to be a little chafing here and there. Among saints there would be. Patience is the soothing oil preventing the irritations from becoming running sores.
Some years ago I was faced with the necessity of working up a talk on the ideal wife. Naturally, I was open for suggestions, particularly from a few ideal wives whose friendship I highly prize.
One evening, as I visited the home of one of these friends, I mentioned the task with which I was confronted.
“Mary, if you had to give an hour talk on the ideal wife to high school seniors or to a woman’s club, what would you discuss?”
Here was the voice of experience talking. I was not asking any air scout how to fly that Constellation. The senior pilot of the airlines was briefing me now. I was not asking any camp fire girl how to whip up that batter of soda biscuit mix. Grandma herself was looking over her glasses at me.
I think that it is of interest to point out here that, although she did not indicate that she considered patience the most important quality of the desired wife, she unhesitatingly suggested it first.
Not only did she mention patience first, but she also explained what she meant by patience in the wife.
Notice that the discussion deals with the patience required of the wife, not of the mother in her relations with her children.
A woman is first the wife of her husband before she is the mother of his children. Later I hope to say a few words concerning the twofold role which the woman must play.
At present I just want to make it clear that Mary is no rattle brain. She was on the ball and stayed there. She was explaining what she meant by the patience in the wife and her dealings with her husband.
Marriage is not a fifty-fifty proposition. (This of course, is Mary talking through my memory.) The wife who enters marriage with the misconception that it is, has failure lurking just around the corner. Often she will think that she is giving her fifty per cent. As a matter of fact, it is only fifteen or twenty per cent. On many other occasions the husband unconsciously is demanding ninety per cent. The fifty per cent proffered falls miserably short. The result is two people at loggerheads. A fight begins and love takes a beating, if it is not turned out-of-doors.
The understanding, the sympathy, and the patience required for happy living cannot be measured out. The stupid expression “marriage is a fifty-fifty deal” implies yardsticks, tape measures, half cups, full tablespoons, and the like.
Love has nothing to do with these things–will not be fenced in by them, for love partakes of the very limitlessness of God.
A wife’s parsimonious measuring out of her imagined fifty per cent produces many serious fights.
She wins these fights too and loses her husband.
Let us illustrate the above by concrete examples.
The wife was getting supper ready. John was fighting the traffic on his way home from work. She was humming softly as she busied herself contentedly about the kitchen. He was muttering loudly the red light blues. She felt fine. He was half sick and out of sorts. Things had not been going well at work. He was upset and unwittingly looking for a fight.
As he entered the house and gave Mary a little hug and kiss, she noticed that he looked tense and jumpy. A few minutes later she could hear him scolding one of the children. The storm warnings should have been flying by now. They had better steer clear of him tonight.
Before the family was called to the supper table, Mary had been fully on guard. Unless she was very mistaken her husband was going to demand much more than fifty per cent somewhere along the evening. So the measuring devices, the half cups and full tablespoons were behind her for this evening.
The meal was already prepared. She would not use them on her husband. She would not measure out her patience and understanding. Her husband was definitely off color this evening. She would give him her all. No matter what he said, she would pass it off.
The supper got off to as good a start as could have been expected with the cloud hanging over the table. Soon one of the children massacred table etiquette in such manner as to cause Emily Post to wince.
Before her husband could draw in sufficient breath to let out a blast at the culprit, she quickly took the wind out of his sail by firmly correcting the child. Before the dessert appeared, she took in her stride a caustic remark about the quality of the pot roast and a criticism leveled at her through one of her children.
Mary was nobody’s dish rag. She had a lot of fire and spirit. She could have stood up to him that night, “let him have it,” and have had a fight which she might have won, or, at least in which she would have held her own. But, did anyone ever win a fight of this kind?
This ideal wife had made up her mind to carry her husband through the evening, come what might. He was not himself.
Tomorrow would be another day. If he had been physically sick in bed and needed her care, would she have given only fifty per cent? Of course not. She would have nursed and lavished upon him all the warmth of her nature.
Well, he was sick that night–sick in mind and spirit. He needed her intelligent, loving and patient consideration. She would have considered herself a very shallow person to have reacted otherwise. She was in love with her husband that night too, unreasonable though he was.
A few weeks later the tables were turned. She was the one who was at wits end with herself. She started the day with a headache and things went from bad to worse. It was a rainy day, and for some unfathomable reason the school shut its doors on the children.
They were under her feet all day. Often she had to act as referee in their squabbles. As the afternoon wore on toward supper time, she was becoming conditioned for more adult opposition.
An unsuspecting husband made his entry. He was back to his little castle in the suburb with roses round the door (metaphorically speaking) and babies on the floor (literally speaking).
During the meal Mary “blew her top” about something. Oh yes, the car did not start that afternoon. The battery or something must have been dead. Some junk! It was time they had a new car.
So it was a junk, was it? John could think of the days of work it had taken to buy that old bus a few years previous. It was still a good car. What did women know about cars anyway? There ought to have been a law against women ever—-.
There is no future in this kind of thought, so John quickly banished the hideous little devil from his mind. Mary was worked up tonight. He would have to be cautious. Did he defend his car against his wife? John was a little too sharp for that.
He jumped on the band wagon and lambasted the car too. Yes. We would have to do something about that nuisance. He felt like going out then and burning it up. He knew that by the time they got to the dishes, she would have forgotten all about the car.
Mary purred through the rest of the meal contentedly with that wonderful feeling that her husband was all for her. Together they stood against the whole world.
Suppose that John had been a little thick between the ears and that he took exceptions to her remarks about the car and defended the car against his wife. A fight would have ensued. Feelings would have been hurt. And there was danger that their tempers would have swept them on to the name calling stage. Once this has been reached, real harm frequently has been done to a marriage.
Mary finished her explanation of what she meant by patience by saying that she and her husband had never had a fight in the twelve years of married life. Then she added what I thought was the epitome of her whole conversation by saying that she and her husband did not intend to have any fights.
This determination not to fight was indicative of their intelligence and maturity. Surely it was one of the factors contributing to the happy stability of their marriage.
This couple has had arguments and disagreements I believe that I have been in on a few warm ones. An argument is not a fight.
People with minds of their own will not always see eye to eye on every phase of their daily lives. Viewpoints will vary and disagreements will result even as to whether or not junior should have a crew haircut. But let us not make junior a ward of the divorce court because husband and wife cannot agree on the proper length of junior’s hair. After all, it is not that important.
Arguments and disagreements degenerate into fights, when ill-feeling, name-calling and bitterness come into the picture. The ideal wife, fortified with the virtue of patience, sets her face against such loss of harmony. Whatever be the cost she wisely realizes that her effort at peace is worth the price.
No good comes from fights in married life. I have been asked whether it is not a good idea for husband and wife to have a fight once in a while. The air is thus cleared. The very young, theorizing about this, often add that it is so sweet when they make up. In connection with this question one inquirer quoted Bishop Fulton Sheen as saying that a couple never really knows how much they love each other until they have made up after their first fight.
Nothing was said about how many found out how little they loved each other and never made up.
It is very true that sometimes good comes out of evil. Yet, how insane it is to seek or even permit avoidable evil, on the chance some good might come of it.
Fights among married people are evil things and bring untold misery into lives. So many broken marriages have come before me in which there was no third party, no drinking, no in-law trouble, no major difficulty. They just fought. So often people are less mature than their children, whom they have brought into the world to endure their bad tempers.
Fights begin between human beings because of pride. We have a will of our own. When we do not get our way pride suffers. Like children we want to fight the opposition to our will. So far we have no control of our reactions. We are made this way.
If we are adults, however, we have learned by bitter experience that our pride is the surest destroyer of happiness and love. Unless we are psycho-masochists, we crush our insurgent pride and prevent ourselves the stupid and dubious pleasure of hurting the one who has stung our pride.
Once a fight has begun between man and wife it is clear that one or the other must win the struggle against pride. One or the other must curb the desire to win the empty victory.
If the wife makes the first effort at reconciliation, her humility will make it difficult for the husband to nurse his pride. Pride cannot face up to humility. It is shamed out of existence.
Even when husband and wife make up completely after a fight, a fight is still unfortunate. Fights leave scars. The wound heals, but there ever remains a scar in the mind.
I have had many estranged married people tell me that their partners did this or that to them twenty-five or thirty years ago. Happy years had intervened between the fight and the present estrangement. But they could not forget, even if they had forgiven.
The wife desired meditates deeply on the hatefulness of fighting.
She has made up her mind to suffer anything rather than fight and thus wound her husband. Remember that there is always the danger that we begin to hate whom we hurt for the same reason that we begin to love whom we help.
“Lord, Help me to be a good wife. I fully realize that I don’t have what it takes to be one without Your help. Take my selfishness, impatience, and irritability and turn them into kindness, long-suffering, and the willingness to bear all things. Take my old emotional habits, mindsets, automatic reactions, rude assumptions, and self-protective stance, and make me patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle, and self-controlled. Take the hardness of my heart and break down the walls with Your battering ram of revelation. Give me a new heart and work in me Your love, peace, and joy. I am not able to rise above who I am at this moment. Only You can transform me.”
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