The Power of Patience: How to Wait Well, Persevere Through Suffering, and Navigate a Fast-Paced World with Dr. Sarah Schnitker

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Episode Summary

What are you willing to wait for? What are you willing to suffer for? Research psychologist Sarah Schnitker (Baylor University) has done groundbreaking work in the science of patience. By exploring the ways to become more patient with others and ourselves—and discovering the role of this timeless virtue in a flourishing life—she offers us a freeing and stabilizing approach to thinking about goals, perseverance, and navigating our fast-paced world.

Show Notes

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“People who are patient are not less assertive, they are not passive, and if anything they actually achieve their goals more successfully. Anything worthwhile, you'll have to wait and you'll have to suffer. And so we need patience to be able to suffer well. Patience is not an eradication of emotions. It is the ability to feel those emotions, but to stay level headed to regulate through them. As a virtue, patience, I see as doing that for something beyond the self. So patience is really staying engaged continuing forward and pursuing the good.” (Sarah Schnitker)
We live in a high-speed, high-efficiency, get-it-done-yesterday society. Why would we talk about patience? But the old adage, “Patience is a virtue” is true. A core ingredient to our spiritual health in our frenetic modern world is the ability to live fully in the moment, exercise control and stability through arduous or challenging (and even traumatic) circumstances—doing so with poise and style.Research psychologist Dr. Sarah Schnitker of Baylor University has pioneered the scientific study of patience among the virtues, exploring the physical, emotional, spiritual, and philosophical dimensions of this timeless and timely virtue. She defines patience as the ability to remain calm in the face of adversity and suffering—being able to wait well and not become inordinately overwhelmed by anxiety or sorrow.Patience makes us ask not just “What’s worth waiting for?”, but “What’s worth suffering for?” Our English word for suffering comes from the Latin word for “enduring suffering.” And Sarah Schnitker brings theologically rich dimensions to her psychological study of patience.

In this conversation with Sarah Schnitker, we discuss:

  • The definition of patience as a virtue
  • The essential role patience can play in our pursuit of meaning and purpose
  • The connections between waiting and suffering—and the theological and spiritual context for patience
  • How patience is related to goal-setting and complementary to courage
  • And Sarah offers guidance for how to cultivate patience in our own lives, using a research-backed strategy to identify, imagine, and think.

Show Notes

  • Learn about Sarah Schnitker’s research on virtue and character development on Science of Virtues Lab.
  • Pam King introduces Sarah Schnitker (Baylor University)
  • Biblical concept of patience as “long-suffering”
  • David Bailey Harned—eradicating problems and losing faith in patience
  • “Anything worthwhile you’ll have to wait and you’ll have to suffer.”
  • “I think many people don't have that clarity about what it is in their life that they are willing to suffer for. So I think that search for meaning and purpose involves that.”
  • Patience as a “beyond the self” virtue
  • Definition: “the ability to remain calm in the face of adversity, suffering, and waiting”
  • “It's not that you don't get emotions. It is the ability to feel those emotions, but to stay level headed to regulate through them.”
  • Patience and goal-setting
  • Patience and self-control as different but working together
  • “Patience is really part of that facilitation of adaptive goal pursuit, which is really cool to find and also to show that meaning really matters too. That meaning pushes you to be more patient.”
  • Telos: “the intersection of our goals, our roles, and our souls”
  • Patience and courage
  • Habits to help us reappraise meaning and purpose in the world
  • “This moment is not forever…”
  • Kendall Bronk on patience in emerging adults
  • Patience as “the ability to stay calm, but actively engaged in the face of frustration or suffering.”
  • Depression, mental health
  • Mark Labberton’s story of allowing the rituals and habits of Christian sacraments and liturgy to calm and regulate and provide meaning
  • Autopilot as the virtue
  • Gratitude and patience as a communal practice—what is communal patience?
  • What is your gratitude? What is your growth?
  • Virtues help us as a fuel system and guidance system
  • Patience in Sarah Schnitker’s personal life
  • Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome
  • Virtue Ethics and Greek philosopher Aristotle
  • The “Golden Mean” of virtues
  • Impatience is too little of the virtue of patience (the vice of deficiency)
  • Passivity (or the spiritual vice of “acedia”) is too much of patience (the vice of excess)
  • Weaponizing patience is not a virtue.
  • How patience pairs well with courage
  • When you have both patience and courage, that’s when you’re pursuing your goals well and loving boldly, seeking justice
  • Patience and loving your enemy
  • Practical Steps: How can we become patient?
  • Identify, Imagine, and Sync
  • Identify your emotions, notice what you’re feeling, developing a larger emotional lexicon
  • Imagine, think about things differently, think differently, reappraisal to bring down the emotion, perspective taking
  • Sync, moving forward with a goal based plan connected to meaning and purpose
  • “Patience is a whole-life game.”
  • Patience and the Muslim practice of Ramadan
  • Measuring the impact of fasting during Ramadan on the cultivation of patience
  • Understanding the sacred practice of spiritual fasting and its connection to virtue development
  • Patience increased significantly during Ramadan
  • Practicing patience as a spiritual community
  • How practices connect us to our bodies, purposes, and beliefs
  • Sarah Schnitker on “What is thriving?”
  • Loving God and loving others for the sake of justice in society
  • Pam King’s key takeaways:
  • Waiting is not easy, but in our fast-paced world, we need to slow down and cultivate the timeless virtue of patience.
  • Patience helps us both to regulate and reappraise our emotional life, helping us deal with really difficult situations.
  • We can learn and cultivate patience in a variety of contexts in the family, school, work, and its uptake is enhanced when supported by a spiritual community.
  • When paired with courage, patience has the potential to make us truly resilient.
  • Patience is transformative for our thriving and deeply connected to our pursuit of meaning and purpose.

About Sarah Schnitker

Sarah Schnitker is Associate Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience at Baylor University. She holds a PhD and an MA in Personality and Social Psychology from the University of California, Davis, and a BA in Psychology from Grove City College. Schnitker studies virtue and character development in adolescents and emerging adults, with a focus on the role of spirituality and religion in virtue formation. She specializes in the study of patience, self-control, gratitude, generosity, and thrift. Schnitker has procured more than $3.5 million in funding as a principle investigator on multiple research grants, and she has published in a variety of scientific journals and edited volumes. Schnitker is a Member-at-Large for APA Division 36 – Society for the Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, is a Consulting Editor for the organization’s flagship journal, Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, and is the recipient of the Virginia Sexton American Psychological Association’s Division 36 Mentoring Award. Follow her on Twitter @DrSchnitker.

About the Thrive Center

About Dr. Pam King

Dr. Pam King is Executive Director the Thrive Center and is Peter L. Benson Professor of Applied Developmental Science at Fuller School of Psychology & Marriage and Family Therapy.  Follow her @drpamking.

About With & For

  • Host: Pam King
  • Senior Director and Producer: Jill Westbrook
  • Operations Manager: Lauren Kim
  • Social Media Graphic Designer: Wren Juergensen
  • Consulting Producer: Evan Rosa
Special thanks to the team at Fuller Studio and the Fuller School of Psychology & Marriage and Family Therapy.


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