Help, Don’t Honk: 3 Ways of Channeling More Patience

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Patience is a virtue. Unfortunately, it’s not one I’ve always been good at. The other day, though, I discovered just how productive it actually is.

I was sitting at my desk working away at the novel when I heard someone honking. This isn’t an uncommon occurrence for us, though. We live right next to the church we pastor on a very busy intersection. Some people honk to greet us as they pass the parsonage. Others honk at others taking too long at the intersection. I like to think all the honking is greeting us. This day, though, the honking didn’t stop.

I looked out the window to see a man in a car sitting at the stoplight. Behind him were about 7 cars. I immediately noticed the problem; he wasn’t close enough to the ground sensor for the light to change green. That specific area is one where the sensor seems to be fault and, if you aren’t right on it, it’ll stay red forever. I watched for a few minutes to see if he would inch forward. He didn’t. The cars behind continued to honk. He threw his hands up in the air as if to say, “What do you want me to do?!”

I got up from the desk and walked out the front door and right up to the car. Brushing away any nerves about how he would receive it, I tapped on the passenger window and the man rolled it down. I smiled and said, “If you move up about two feet, it’ll turn green for you.”

He inched forward the appropriate distance and the light turned green. “Thank you!” He shouted from his car as he went on his way. Each of the cars following him passed by me and waved; a sign of their gratitude.

I returned back to my office and continued to work on my novel. But I couldn’t help but think what might’ve happened if one of the drivers behind him showed him compassion instead of impatience. The red light wasn’t his fault. Neither could anyone blame him for not wanting to break the law or turn out into oncoming traffic. It only took one person with a little understanding to find the solution and help the whole bunch.

So, I decided today to share 5 practical tips to stir up some productive patience.

1. Be the Solution, Not the Problem

A lot of times, when impatience oozes out of us, it only produces negativity. We give in to the negative emotion and then pass it on to the people around us we are impatient with. Instead of finding us a solution, we become the problem. Stop and ask yourself, “Will my impatience make the situation better or worse?” The answer will always be worse. So then ask, “How can I help make the situation better?”

In the case of this man at the red light, it may have meant walking up to try and problem solve. “I wonder why it’s not turning green?” Maybe the question would inspire the solution, “Oh, the line is up here a couple feet. Maybe that’s the problem?” Honking didn’t make the problem go away quicker. It just made the problem MORE of a problem.

2. Be the Hero

When everyone else is reeling with frustration and impatience and putting pressure on the object of their impatience, but the hero emerging from the crowd. Stress and pressure does not make people more efficient or effective. In fact, it causes mental chaos.

When you’re pressured, everything you do is fumbled. You’re trying to react to bring about the quickest means of satisfaction for those against you. But, if a hero emerges from the crowd willing to help you and desires to see a positive outcome, your stress level will decrease and put the person at ease enough to make rational, efficient choices. When no one else jumps into action, don’t be afraid of being the one who does!

In the instance of this man, I was able to give him relief from the mounting pressure of those behind him. He listened and heeded my suggested. Then, his gratitude bubbled over. I got the pleasure of being his hero. Then I got the pleasure of being the hero of all the others who had been spectators of his stress. Maybe I was a positive example to them.3

3. Think About Safety

When you’re being impatient, you’re very rarely being safe. You want people around you to move at your pace which may be faster than they have the capability of being. Ask yourself, “If the person I’m impatient with bends to my will, would it put anyone else (or myself) at risk or in danger?” If the answer is yes, then maybe you can ease back on your impatience and desire safety over pace.

In this instance, if the man had done what the rest of the people wanted him to do (run the red light), he may have gotten very hurt by oncoming traffic. The risk was high and he knew it. No one else seemed to care. Be the one to care. Care for your safety and the safety of others above everything else. Cause the flip side means possibly seeing a traumatic event that you might blame yourself for in the long run.

At the end of the day, it’s about stopping and thinking rationally. Is your feeling or action going to bring about a positive outcome? Is your current attitude productive or not? If not, you may need to be more intentional about focusing on how you can be a positive part in the matter.

What do you think? What is another way of bringing about productive patience?


  • I too am an impatient person and it often takes my wife to be my wisdom. If I’m driving and someone is in the fast lane creeping along it makes me crazy. My wife, however, the voice of reason, reminds that maybe they are a new driver or maybe they’re lost. I love these tips for channeling patience.

  • I can be super impatient sometimes and I also hate it when other people are on the roads lol. These are great tips to keep in mind not just for driving but in life, because really being impatient does not make anything happen any faster or better.

  • Drivers behind might be too lazy to get out and tell the front what he should do. Maybe the driver in front wasn’t living that that city to know how it works. Honking will never give you the right response.

  • Such a great reminder to be patient. I’m high strung by nature, but being a high school English teacher and a mother has definitely helped to teach me patience. Some of the things that use to stress me out just don’t seem like such a big deal anymore. And I definitely try to be the solution…not part of the problem.

  • Sometimes, it’s good to try 2 world to be able to appreciate what sanity looks like. i grew up in a continent where honking is a delight, and we change the car horns regularly. But living elsewhere has shown me the difference and gives me another mindset about honking.

  • In this busy, busy world, and which we are all somehow convinced that shaving off a minute to get to the next task is a win, no one really thinks about patience. This post made me take a deep breath and calm down. I’m going to be the hero in my own crazy day and move a little slower. Thank you.

  • I was told people tend to be less patient and that it was because time relative to a younger person is longer proportionally to their entire life. Not sure if this is a factor, but in this age where people demand instant everything it is important to practice patience

  • Patience is a virtue. But in a world where everyone seems too busy being busy to slow down and think about things, people are easily impatient. Good reminder about how a small amount of compassion and sharing knowledge can go a long way.

  • I’m an impatient person and I truly loved reading your post, your posture and approach when dealing with the situation. My worst moments are when waiting at the doctor’s office, possible with kids who then start being nervous, need the toilet, etc – and where I cannot really do anything to change the situation. BUT I know that if I use my energy in a creative way, to distract the kids for instance, things will definitely go better than if I get tensed and nervous. I think next time I’ll think about your story and smile instead!!

  • This is the problem with the society nowadays. People jumped into the problem trying to make it bigger instead of finding a solution. If only there would be more kindness, more love, patience…

  • This is so good! At one point it made me think of the song the trolls sing in Frozen: “People make bad choices when they’re mad or scared or stressed, but throw a little love their way, and you’ll bring out their best!”

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