The Virtue of Long-suffering
A True Story
on Jul 4, 2021
A couple of years ago, I came across the word "long-suffering" in my readings. I even heard the Rev. Jesse Jackson say in one of his fiery speeches that "we need to be long-suffering". At first, I didn't know what "long-suffering" meant. I must have thought it meant suffering for a long time. Intrigued, I looked up its meaning in my Oxford dictionary. And from the dictionary, I learnt that to be long-suffering means to bear problems or other people's unpleasant behavior with patience.
Upon learning the meaning of long-suffering, I thought to myself what a great virtue it is to possess as we live in this fallen world - a world that is full of people who do all sorts of wrongs such as lying, stealing, speaking arrogantly, taking advantage of others and spreading malicious gossip. Allow me to give examples of such wrongs that I have witnessed being done to others and to me as well.
Back in January 2006 after I turned 18, I went one morning to apply for a national identity card at a government office in Nairobi. Applying for the ID was a long process as it involved filling a number of forms as well as being taken passport photos and finger-prints. The process was even made longer by the sheer number of people being served in the office. When I was in the last stage of applying for the ID, a young woman came to the government office. She must have been friends of the government officers given the way she was immediately served before us.
Disturbed by seeing the young woman served before us yet she had arrived long after us, I voiced a complaint to the officers. And wa! The officers reacted negatively to my complaint. In their arrogance, they retaliated by placing my application forms at the bottom of the pile. Being the humble young man that I was, I kept silent and patiently waited for my turn to be served. After I was finally done applying for the ID, I left the government offices frothing with bitterness for having been treated unfairly.
Then there is this poor neighbor who lives on a piece of land to the north of our home. He used to come to our home to borrow water with a frequency that began to irritate us. Last year, my mother got fed up with him and instructed him to desist from coming to our home to fetch water - a proof that the Bible is right when it says in Proverbs 25:17, "Don't visit your neighbors too often because they may get tired of you and come to hate you."
It is not only the neighbor's frequent visit to our home that irritated us. We were also annoyed by his goats straying into our farm through gaps on the fence dividing our home from his. The goats would devour crops on our farm - something that infuriated my mother and me as well. Even after we warned him several times, he would still get lackadaisical in his duties and leave his goats to stray into our farm.
Some time last year, I noticed a wider gap on a certain spot on the fence dividing our home and his. And on the ground below the gap, there was a beaten path that clearly showed some people were trespassing into our home through the gap. Concerned about the issue, I asked the neighbor one afternoon last year whether he and his family were using the gap to enter into our farm without our knowledge. He denied doing that.
Guess what! Last Friday, I caught the neighbor red-handed crossing from our land into his farm through that gap. I approached him and frankly informed him my mother would fly into a rage if she got to know he was using the gap to enter into our home. Later on in the evening of that Friday, I felt rather peeved by the neighbor for having lied to me that he hadn't been using the gap to trespass into our home. I was peeved indeed.
And then about a week ago, one of our farmhands named Mwangi went to visit his home. He left early on a Saturday morning and promised to be back the following day. Come Sunday, he phoned to say there was a huge traffic jam on a certain highway that would delay his return by a day. When Monday reached, he again prolonged his stay by saying he wouldn't make it home till Tuesday.
On Tuesday, Mwangi requested my father for fare which he received via phone. At around 4.00pm of that day when my father called him to confirm if he was still coming, he replied that he was in Nairobi on his way back. Then at around 7.00pm, he phoned my father to say he had misplaced his money. He asked for fare which he again received. At around 9.00pm, he phoned my father, informing him that he had been arrested for not wearing a mask in these times of Covid-19 pandemic.
As I followed how events were unfolding for Mwangi, I had a feeling all he was doing was lying in an effort to solicit more money from my father. And it bothered me to see my father being so easily deceived by him. My instincts were right because when Mwangi finally arrived home on Wednesday morning, I gathered that he hadn't been arrested. He had been lying.
We live in a fallen world for shizzle - a world full of liars, haters, thieves, rapists, fraudsters and the like. That's why we need to practise the virtue of long-suffering. Some versions of the Bible say long-suffering is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit. I believe if we can perfect that virtue in our day-to-day living, we will be able to maintain an inner peace in the midst of all the evil going on around us. That's all I am saying.
RECOMMENDATION: If you've enjoyed this story on the virtue of long-suffering, you might also enjoy another one I wrote about two years ago on "Dealing With Difficult People". Just click on that link in blue to dive straight into the story.
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Lessons From My Heroes
A True Story
on Jun 29, 2021
When I was applying to Harvard College in 2007, I wrote in an essay that my heroes were Bill Clinton, Ben Carson and Barack Obama. "These three great Americans," so I said in the essay, "are exponents of my philosophies. They have overcome great difficulties on their way to the top of their careers... and I do draw a lot of inspiration from them."
I still draw a lot of inspiration from those three great Americans. And having read their books over the past ten years, I have noted they all grew without a father figure. Bill Clinton's father died in a car accident before Bill was born while Ben Carson's and Barack Obama's parents divorced when Ben and Barack were young boys. Despite growing up without their biological fathers, they managed to achieve astounding success at a relatively young age.
Bill Clinton was elected as the governor of the U.S. state of Arkansas at the tender age of 31. He was eventually elected as the 42nd U.S. President in 1992. Ben Carson became the Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery at John Hopkins Medical Institution at the age of 33. And Barack Obama was elected to the Illinois state legislature at the age of 35 and eventually elected to the U.S. presidency in 2008.
Yes, I have read quite a number of books by Bill Clinton, Ben Carson and Barack Obama. So I now know much about them. And on analyzing their lives, I have been able to distill the following traits that made them eminently successful at a young age despite having grown up without a father figure:
- Faith in God: All those three heroes of mine have always had a deep faith in God. When Bill Clinton was asked in 1992 what he would do first if he was elected president, he replied that he would thank God. Ben Carson advised young people never to get too big for God. And Barack Obama said in one of his famous speeches that he believed in things not seen.
- A passion for reading: All those three heroes of mine have always been avid readers ever since they were young. Bill Clinton read hundreds of books while he was at Oxford University on a Rhodes scholarship. And Ben Carson mentions in one of his books that it is reading that lifted him from the bottom of his class to become one of the most distinguished neurosurgeons in America.
- Valuing hard work: All those three heroes of mine worked hard in their chosen careers. Bill Clinton described himself in his autobiography as a hard-working politician. And Ben Carson said in one of his books that hard-work had always been a part of him. Same can be said of Barack Obama.
- Practising the virtue of hope: All those three heroes of mine have always been hopeful, optimistic individuals which is what contributed to their success. Bill Clinton pointed out in his autobiography that hope has always been the fibre of his being which has stayed with him in moments when he has lost all his power of analysis and articulation. Barack Obama was elected U.S. President by inspiring his fellow citizens to believe in hope.
- Marrying right: All those three heroes of mine married right. Bill Clinton married his law school sweetheart, Hillary, who supported his political ambitions and who forgave him for his well-known infidelities. The wives of Ben Carson and Barack Obama have also been instrumental in the success Ben and Barack attained in their careers.
RECOMMENDATION: If you've enjoyed this story on lessons from my heroes, you might also enjoy another one I wrote three years ago on "Lessons From Ben Carson". Just click on that link in blue to dive straight into the story.