A Fruit a Day…What Does it Mean to be Long-Suffering?

Welcome back to our study on the fruits of the Spirit. We are almost half-way through the study, having already tackled love, joy and peace. Today we get to look at one that I find particularly difficult to achieve in my own life: FORBEARANCE.

My thoughts on Forbearance

When I think of forbearance, the first thing that comes to mind is putting up with someone or something difficult. Forbearance is not a word I use or come across often so I had take more time than usual to research this.

Merriam-Webster Definition of Forbearance

The definition of forbearance is ‘the quality of someone who is patient and able to deal with a difficult person or situation without becoming angry‘.

Synonyms for Forbearance

Long-suffering, endurance, fortitude, living with restraint, temperance, tolerance, leniency, mercy

Greek word for Forbearance

I had an interesting discussion with my husband about this. One of the ancient Greek words used for forbearance is makrothumia which means “long-tempered” (as opposed to short-tempered). What struck me about this word is that it does not mean we are to never get angry but rather that there can be a “slowness” to becoming angry. There is an element of forethought and consideration before we react to something.  So how does this relate to the concept of forbearance or long-suffering? If we are being patient with someone who really does not deserve it, then we are challenged with the task of exercising restraint and not getting angry with them easily. So much easier said than done but it is one of the fruits of the Spirit so something I intend to work on!

The Septuagint, which is the Greek translation of the Old Testament describes forbearance as “God delaying his wrath”. So once again, there is an element of “delay” and not acting out on our first reaction or impulse.

Favorite verses on Forbearance

  • Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love” Eph. 4:2
  • Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone”. Col. 3:13
  • Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:2-4

Final thoughts on Forbearance

The concept of forbearance or long-suffering is a sensitive area. It can be hard to find a balance between being patient with those who do not deserve it versus becoming a door-mat for someone. It can also be a challenge to try and put up with a difficult or inconvenient situation without getting upset or annoyed. How do we find balance? How do we know when enough is enough? I don’t think there is an easy answer to it. All I know is that I can certainly do with some improvement in this area. I get impatient with my children sometimes when I could be more tolerant of their tiredness or moodiness. It’s easy to get upset about traffic, about someone being insensitive, or about plans not unraveling as intended.  Makrothumia means not reacting angrily to the person or situation but patiently bearing it for the moment. It’s not easy, is it?

Forbearance or self-control is the ability to exercise restraint, to stay in balance. It is disciplining yourself to be measured and temperate in your response to trying circumstances. It is being patent and even keeled while enduring hardships. It is having the ability to constrain your own worst impulses and allowing thoughtful, wiser aspects of yourself to govern what you say and do. Just because we can do something doesn’t mean we should. Forbearance protects us against doing harm on impulse in the throes of anger or fear. Since so much of virtue is about finding a balance point between two kinds of excess, forbearance helps to keep us close to the center of our better selves.” –Wisdomcommons.org

Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net
Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net
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