Forbearance – What does that word mean?

We deal with tough people and situations every day.  How do you handle it?  A word that came up in my bible study this week was FORBEARANCE.   According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, forbearance means “the quality of someone who is patient and able to deal with a difficult person or situation without becoming angry.”  As I read that definition a several  things stood out to me.
First, is that forbearance is a character quality.  It is not an action but a way of thinking that our actions follow.  If we have the quality of forbearance then the result is patience when dealing with difficult people or situations.  It is a quality I find myself needing quite often in my job as an Alternative Education teacher.  People and situations can become volatile and escalate quickly if I do not keep my head in the midst of a crisis.  I need to have the quality ahead of time and know how to control my emotions during the event.
Another word that is important to understand in this definition is the word DEAL.  We do have to deal with people and situations, not just withdraw from them.  God never called us to be withdrawn from the world but to come along side people and restore them to God.  We cannot just ignore a difficult person or situation but must decide which action is the right one.
Now is the one that people tend to focus on:  “without becoming angry.”  It is so easy for our emotions to get out of control in a difficult circumstance but forbearance calls us to do just that.  When talking to my bible study group about this issue, the first thing someone said was “Well, Jesus got angry at the temple.”  Yes, yes he did.  BUT that was one instance out of hundred’s more where he dealt with difficult people and situations without becoming angry.  We can’t point to that one time as an excuse for us to do it over and over again.  There is a time for righteous anger but in very few circumstances does God want us to act this way.
So, how do we do this?  Here are a few ideas:
  1. Be sure to take some time to calm down when you feel your anger rising.  If that requires counting to ten or taking a walk, or just talking to yourself, do it!
  2. If you know a person is going to be difficult before you even face them, have some scenarios in mind of how you can respond. Choose to be proactive.
  3. Consider what might be causing the difficult situation or person. There may be stresses in the person’s life you know nothing about and has nothing to do with you. Empathy can go a long way.
  4. Sometimes it is necessary to pick your battles. We are supposed to deal with what is before us but be prayerful and know what your part is in God’s plan.  Sometimes God has the perfect person in place to take the steps necessary and it may not be you.  Spend some time in prayer  (if the situation gives you time) and listen to the Holy Spirit’s guidance.
So, think of the quality of forbearance as you go through your week and let me know what you think of this little talked about word.