Building Resilience in Kids Pt. 4 | Delayed Gratification

There is a fascinating word in the Bible. In Greek, the word is “makrothumia.” It is rendered, “longsuffering.” The history of this word is fascinating. In its original form, it meant “long of nose” or “long breathing,” as opposed to the experience of rapid breathing when one is angry. There is a connotation of being slow to anger, patient, self-controlled, content. In 2 Peter 3:9, the word refers to the character of God: The Lord…is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance. In the famous wedding passage, 1 Corinthians 13, the word is used in reference to love. Love is patientlove is longsuffering. It suffers long. Longsuffering is a theme throughout the story of the Bible, from the Hebrews in the wilderness, to the Exile, to the Christians who would wait for Christ’s return—this sense of longsuffering is so crucial that the church adopted it as it two primary liturgical seasons for the spiritual life, Advent and Lent. The theme of longsuffering is woven through both seasons: waiting for Christ’s return, and waiting for the resurrection.

We live in an age where everything is instant from instant food to instant purchase options to instant websites. Everything in our culture pushes us against patience, longsuffering, or self-restraint. We have a puppy who currently has no self-restraint. Kids are like puppies. They need to learn self-restraint. But how will they learn restraint if their parents are reactive, compulsive, or instantaneous all the time? To learn the art of delayed gratification is a spiritual practice that I am not good at. I err toward compulsivity, which means that this practice takes more work for me. But I recognize the need. Life is difficult, and the adage is often true: good things come to those who wait. Developing the capacity for resilience requires the practice of longsuffering, or delayed gratification. I like the dated word “longsuffering,” because I feel like it’s honest: this is what I’m doing—I’m going to suffer long, and then I come through the other side—okay let’s go. This way I can prepare myself for the experience.

You can think about the many ways in which this can be applied. For starters, putting limits on screen time teaches delayed gratification. Teaching discipline to study little by little well in advance for an exam is teaching delayed gratification. Just take some time to think about how you can model this for your kids. Say “no” to something you want. Limit your own screen time. Plan your spending habits. Your kids will follow your lead (most likely).

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Building Resilience in Kids Pt. 4 | Delayed Gratification

Chris Pritchett

Chris Pritchett was our first CEO of the Pro Deo Foundation. He currently resides in Salt Lake City, Utah with his wife and three kids. Chris is the Senior Pastor of Mount Olympus Presbyterian Church

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