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Sunday, June 27, 2010

FOOD FOR THE SPIRIT-The Ability to Be Patient

In the 1960s, a professor at Stanford University began a modest experiment testing the willpower of four-year-old children. He placed before them a large marshmallow and then told them they could eat it right away or, if they waited for 15 minutes, they could have two marshmallows.

He then left the children alone and watched what happened behind a two-way mirror. Some of the children ate the marshmallow immediately; some could wait only a few minutes before giving in to temptation. Only 30 percent were able to wait.

It was a mildly interesting experiment, and the professor moved on to other areas of research, for, in his own words, “there are only so many things you can do with kids trying not to eat marshmallows.” But as time went on, he kept track of the children and began to notice an interesting correlation: the children who could not wait struggled later in life and had more behavioral problems, while those who waited tended to be more positive and better motivated, have higher grades and incomes, and have healthier relationships.

What started as a simple experiment with children and marshmallows became a landmark study suggesting that the ability to wait—to be patient—was a key character trait that might predict later success in life," (President Dieter F. Uchdorf, "Continue in Patience," General Conference, April 2010).

One sister in my ward referred to this same principle as instant vs. delayed gratification. Those who are able to hold out for the blessings and achievements of tomorrow, are simply delaying gratification, for they know that the rewards of waiting are almost always much, much greater. In contrast, those who cannot see past the one, fairly inconsequential "marshmallow" of today give in, relinquishing their dreams. This principle of instant gratification is the stuff that addictions and dependencies are made of. The beauty of the gospel is, that it teaches us how to overcome this need for immediacy as we learn patience and discipline. Through Christ's example, we learn the correct order of things: first God, then others, and lastly our own needs and wants. We learn to overcome the "natural man," and put on Christ. Or as President Hinckley's father advised his discourage missionary son, we "forget ourselves and go to work."

Though I struggle with this principle sometimes, I know that Christ meets me where I am. Through His example, love, and patience, I can myself learn patience. I know that it is through Him that my weaknesses will become strengths.


jnkeller said...

I always struggle with wanting that immediate gratification. I have for almost as long as I can remember. I'll be working right along side you to correct my living of this principle. Good thing He sends us the help we need as we go along!

K Walton said...

I love thinking of those poor little four year olds though. Come on! That's just RUDE!

Tamaran said...

I've considered trying it on my toddler just to see how long she can wait...