Illustration: Kieran Blakey

The Nuance

How to Cultivate Patience, the Ancient Virtue We All Need Right Now

The way we live now discourages patience. It’s time to reprioritize this lost virtue.

Markham Heid
Elemental
Published in
7 min readNov 12, 2020

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Two days before the Associated Press declared him the winner of the 2020 presidential election, Joe Biden tried to settle his nation’s rattled nerves. “[Democracy] sometimes requires a little patience,” he remarked. “Stay calm . . . the process is working.”

For many, it wasn’t working fast enough. Every hour that passed seemed to turn up the tension and frustration of the U.S. electorate. Protests and counterprotests broke out. After just a few days of waiting, America seemed poised to lose its collective shit. Contrast this state of affairs with the 2000 contest between George W. Bush and Al Gore, which remained in limbo for five weeks following Election Day. If you can’t imagine today’s America putting up with that kind of delay, experts can’t either.

“Patience is a character strength that our society has definitely neglected,” says…

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Markham Heid
Elemental

I’m a frequent contributor at TIME, the New York Times, and other media orgs. I write mostly about health and science. I like long walks and the Grateful Dead.