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Posted by Lisa Lewis Koster - - 5 comments

I recently listened to a sermon by Mark Batterson, and in it he told of a study conducted to see how long individuals would work to solve a series of puzzles before giving up. What these people didn't know was that the puzzles were unsolvable. (Did I mention that I hate puzzles?)

They were also unaware that the "taste" study they participated in prior to this was not an independent study but actually directly related to the puzzle study. In the "taste" study, the subjects were led into a room containing a plate of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies and a plate of radishes. (You're already salivating, aren't you?) Half the individuals were told to go ahead and eat whatever they wanted (read, "Have at the cookies!") while the unfortunate remainder were asked to consume only the radishes (as they smelled the freshly baked cookies.)

So what was the connection between the two studies? The researchers discovered the people who were allowed to eat the cookies spent twice as much time trying to solve the puzzle as those who resisted the cookies. Why? Because cookies are good for your patience! Eat more cookies and have more patience! The end.

Ah, if only it were that easy.

Actually, the researchers determined we have self-control in limited amounts. In other words, we can use it up. I realize this is not a newsflash, but now you can be assured that your waning patience is not your imagination. In the studies, the "radish" group had already spent a measure of their self-control on avoiding the cookies, which left them with lower supply of patience when it came to working the puzzles.

This is how we store our toilet paper after
the "pirate" has removed his "spyglass!"
Dude and Bubba, my 3- and 2-year-old grandsons, have been living with me a month now, and I can tell you from experience that the results of this study were spot-on. Caring for them two days a week, I had plenty of patience to deal with the exploits of two active and curious toddlers. Living with them 24/7 I find my patience is tried on a regular basis.

The fact that patience and self-control are expendable explains why even the time of day is a factor. It's much easier to deal with issues like a "pirate" in need of a "spyglass" early on in the day (with a full supply of patience) than it is at the end of the day (when much of it has been spent.)

It also explains why that cookie that you've resisted all day ends up in your hand at the end of the day. Or why that one minor offence sets you off when you've successfully dealt with issues of greater magnitude.

It is better to be patient than powerful. It is better to have self-control than to conquer a city. ~ Proverbs 16:32

So, does the fact that we possess these fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) in limited quantities mean that its okay to "loose it" once our supply has been depleted? Obviously that isn't the case, because that's what we humans tend to do when relying on ourselves and it never is to our benefit. So then, what are we supposed to do when we need more patience than we have?

1. Be Rooted in God's Word. I find I have much more patience and self-control if I've spent some time with Jesus at the beginning of my day. Sometimes it means letting the boys sleep in longer than they should and sometimes it means my husband watching them for a while in the morning so I can start the day off on the right foot.  (During this season, getting up early is not an option - these boys exhaust me!) When this isn't possible, I plant my Bible on the kitchen counter and read a verse or two every time I pass. Put the phone down and rather than looking at it, look at the Bible instead. Trust me, you'll be much better off in the long run.

2. Eliminate stressors.  When the boys moved in, the first thing I did was shelve all my plans (which is the primary reason my posts have been so few and far between.) There's no way I'd be nearly patient as I have been if I was trying to meet deadlines, keep a perfect house (is there such a thing?), making time for the gym (I think hefting 40 pound toddlers up and down the stairs should count for something!), etc. We're in survival mode here. I make sure we eat and have clean clothes. Anything else I get done is a bonus. (I'm only writing this because their Mama was able to come home for a day, giving me a break.) Look at your schedule and determine what you can remove from your load, even if only temporarily?

3. Remove yourself from the situation (or away from the cookie). My husband is great about giving me a break when he can, but most of the time it's just the boys and I. In addition to accepting help when it's offered, I take advantage of things like story time at the library where I can take a back seat and let someone else be in charge, even if only for a short while. Worst-case scenario: I give myself a time-out. If time out for the boys isn't working (i.e. they're not cooperating.at.all) I tell them grandma needs a time-out. They're not sure how to respond to that, and are actually much better at behaving themselves during my time-out than they are for their own. 

4. Pray! James (1:5) tells us that if we're lacking wisdom we should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault. There are certain things God wants to give us, and the fruits of the Spirit definitely fall into that category. One thing that I'm doing with my grandsons (that I wish I knew back when my own kids were growing up) is to stop and pray with them - out loud - in the middle of a situation. I'll ask God to give me what I need (usually patience) and then suggest to the boys that they should ask God for what they need (to be kind, cooperative, etc.)

The first time we did this, Dude prayed, "Dear God, we thank you for this food," just like he does at dinner time. But over time, with encouragement, he's learning that he's not going to find what he needs within himself but God has an abundant supply of it all. Oh, how I wish I learned that when I was three!


5 Responses so far.

  1. Unknown says:

    a) i want to eat a cookie! b) i really enjoyed this post! c) sounds like you have your hands full these days, praying you get through it and that someone kind sends you a big care package of warm cookies. :) Thanks for sharing your life with us. I linked up near you at the WFMW linkup today. xoxo

  2. Wow, a great post. :) Patience is a good target, but one we miss all too often. You certainly are in the middle of a time that will try your patience.... so glad that those little ones have someone who loves them to be with them, though. May God continue to give you strength and encouragement. Thank you for sharing.... please pass the cookies. :)

  3. Unknown says:

    This is such great post, Lisa! I can relate from all sorts of angles - as a mom and a wife and as a recovering food addict. We cannot survive temptations on willpower alone!

  4. One tax season, as I labored over our business and personal taxes, I must have gained 10 pounds eating a box of candy we had gotten somewhere. I could not resist, as the candy gave me energy to think and work the puzzle! ha. Thanks for sharing here at Tell me a Story, and may your daughter be healed in every way!

  5. Bonjour from me in France - saying hello via Create with Joy http://detoutcoeurlimousin.blogspot.fr/2014/11/november-in-creuse.html

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