Part V – Patience
In the previous article we discussed the need for sacrifice in a healthy marriage. One of the ways that we can make sacrifices in our marriage is by practicing patience, and this is the fourth principle of a healthy marriage according to Saint Paisios the Athonite. He uses very strong language when discussing the importance of practicing patience in our marriage: “God has hung the salvation of man on the hook of patience”. When he speaks about patience, he is discussing a very purposeful and active endurance, whereby a person learns put himself and his desires below the needs and desires of the other. This is a great and powerful force, which is an aspect of love requiring deep humility.
In his typical way, the Elder conveys the importance and transformational power of patience by recounting various stories of those who have embodied this mode of life and witnessed its effect on their marriage and family. These stories demonstrate what we might consider “extreme” examples of patience, that leave a very vivid picture in our mind: wives who endured physical abuse without complaint or judgmental thought, husbands and wives who endured spousal betrayal without reacting in any way other than sacrificial love. These stories might seem “far-fetched” or scandalous to our modern American sensitivities, but they are real, and their point is absolutely made: practicing patience can save souls and work miracles. Saint Paisios, before telling one of these stories, say’s, “…the family is saved with patience. By patience I have seen beasts turn into lambs”.
Practicing the type of transformational patience that can turn “beasts into lambs” requires an amazing amount of self-sacrifice and humility. This must be slowly worked up to – a child cannot move from riding a tricycle to a motor bike overnight; it will take time before our practice of patience is compelled out of us by a humble heart – we must begin by compulsion and exertion. The Elder often speaks of “Philotimo” (and uses this term often when speaking about patience), which can be translated so many ways, but is a nobility of heart that is humble and full of love for God and mankind. Philotimo compels one to serve others and to practice patience as a natural act of the heart. But before it will come naturally, this nobility of heart and generosity of spirt must be cultivated. In the teachings of Saint Paisios, this cultivation takes place in nepsis – spiritual watchfulness and the forceful transformation of negative thoughts into positive ones.
Transformative patience is possible in our marriage when as we begin to consider the desires and needs of our spouse above our own. In this practice, and after working at it for some time, we will not only simply “endure” the faults of our spouse, but will start to overlook those faults completely! Saint Paisios says that we learn to do this by “justifying” the actions of our spouse “with just one good thought” each time we encounter the behaviors that we are tempted to judge negatively. We make excuses for their behavior, and say to ourselves that we would have done the same, or even worse if we were in their place. Self-accusation is necessary in order to do this, and we must ignore our own selfish sense of “human justice” if we are to be successful in pursuing this path. By practicing this humbling technique, we can avoid resentment in our marriages, and will be able to practice patience, while remaining focused on our own repentance unto salvation. This can seem so difficult to do, but the Elder encourages us that if we can learn to live this way then we will attract the grace of God, and this divine Grace will also have an effect on our spouse, leading to their own repentance, and blessing our marriage!
 Ibid. pg. 51
 See Chapter 2 of Family Life, entitled “With Patience the Family is Saved” for these powerful vignettes told by Elder Paisios.
 Family Life. Pg. 52
 Ibid. pg. 53
 Cf. Family Life. Pg 58-62