Friday, November 28, 2014

Is Longsuffering a Virtue?

In this post:  Spiritual help to control emotions, using logic to overcome anxiety

I don’t think that it’s a virtue to suffer.  I think there are a few virtues that are developed in longsuffering.  This post is about one of the virtues that I found.

Long-suffering is mentioned in the Bible usually in a string of virtues like this one…
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith”
Galatians 5:22

Everything sounds happy — except that long-suffering stuff.

From my life...
So my kids can sometimes drive me crazy when they try to do a task and need so much help that it would have been faster if I’d done it myself.  Like the time one of my kids was assigned to put away the food processor.  He took it apart, put the base away and asked where I wanted the bowl.  Well of course they are stored together.  However he couldn’t get the bowl to attach to the base because there is a safety mechanism in the lid.  And then he couldn’t get the whole thing into the cupboard without jamming it in sideways and when it looked like he was going to break it the way he was messing with it, I about lost my temper.  You know, expensive tool — dumb kid.

So after getting a bit miffed, I took myself aside for some emotional self-regulation.  In this case, I did some fine motor detailing of my toenails with a paintbrush.  Another time, I took myself for a walk.  These are strategies for dealing with emotional flooding.  Everyone gets angry.  Not everyone knows how to recognize the signs of flooding and what to do next.  When you stop at the first sign of flooding and give your amygdala a chance to calm down, you are exercising a virtue of emotional self-control.  It is this virtue that, I think, is behind longsuffering.  When I retain control of my emotions, I can suffer long without suffering.  It’s an amazing power, if you think about it.

In the Bible verse I quoted, it says that the Spirit helps us to be longsuffering.  I stay close to God and the love that flows from Him and when life gets bad, He’ll help me to remember to stay in control of my emotions.  

The reason fine motor skills help when trying to self-regulate is that concentration at a detailed level uses the left hemisphere of the brain and shuts down the emotionally flooded right hemisphere.  A long walk helps to release endorphins but it also gives me the chance to breathe slowly and realize that I’m no longer in a high stress situation.  The amygdala is no longer needed and my reason returns.  Even just turning on a fan and listening intently to the white noise of it’s motor whirring can calm the emotional side.

I’m a novice at this virtue.  I can see that my anger is unhelpful.  I can sometimes see when I’m “flooded.”  I have started to practice the self-regulation techniques above.  I can see that they help.  I wish I could self-regulate to the level that I didn’t let my voice even show the least bit of annoyance.  That would be awesome!  

Read more by searching “emotional flooding” or read this article...

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