Patience, or how to suffer fools lightly

You’ve heard the expression, “He/She doesn’t suffer fools lightly.” It is almost always said as a compliment.

But I wonder: Is it really a compliment? Is it a trait that we should want to develop?

If you were a teacher, as I was for four decades, you had to put up with lots of fools. You had to suffer them, lightly or otherwise. You had to try to persuade or educate them out of their foolishness. You couldn’t just dismiss them by saying, “I don’t suffer fools lightly.” If you did, then you missed one of the challenges — and ultimately, one of the joys — of teaching.

These thoughts came to me as I was reading Anna Goldfarb‘s excellent essay in the New York Times, “How to Be a More Patient Person.” 

Patience, the ability to keep calm in the face of disappointment, distress or suffering, is worth cultivating. The virtue is associated with a variety of positive health outcomes, such as reducing depression and other negative emotions. Researchers have also concluded that patient people exhibit more prosocial behaviors like empathy, and were more likely to display generosity and compassion.

This is a five-minute read that’s well worth it.

Think about the best teachers you ever had. Were they the kind of people who “didn’t suffer fools lightly”? The answer in my case would be “no.” They put up with me, and I’m glad they did.

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About Jim Stovall

Jim Stovall, a retired journalism prof, is now a novelist, self publisher, watercolorist, gardener, woodworker and beekeeper -- among others things.

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