They may look similar and share certain qualities. But they are actually opposed to each other. Patience is a virtue, while indifference with its accompanying trait of insensitivity is a vice. And these days when things can get so complicated and confusing, it would be good that we have a clear grasp of the difference between the two.
Patience enables us to suffer certain negative situations in our life. It is willing to go through certain discomfort, disadvantage or inconvenience for the sake of a higher good. It is motivated by love that is inspired by the teaching and example of Christ who went through all that passion and death for the sake of our salvation. Christ is the epitome of patience.
Indifference is just some human technique to avoid certain discomfort, disadvantage or inconvenience. It is mainly a defense mechanism motivated by self-preservation or self-interest. It has nothing to do with love, with obeying God’s will and following the example of Christ.
Patience involves the effort to acquire the mind and attitude of Christ who is the final authority to tell us what is moral and what is not. Indifference and insensitivity simply depend on our own personal idea of what is convenient to us in a given predicament. They hardly refer themselves to the teaching and example of Christ. At best, they rely only what is generally known as situation ethics—nothing absolute there, everything only has relative value.
Patience also requires the grace of God, without which it simply is impossible to have. It would even be considered as foolishness. Indifference and insensitivity simply rely on our own raw powers that definitely can only do so much for us.
Patience is always compatible with joy and peace even as the sharpness of the suffering involved cannot be underestimated. It finds meaning in suffering. Indifference and insensitivity are often accompanied by bitterness and anguish. They consider suffering as having nothing to gain from.
Patience does not take away charity toward anyone that may cause us some suffering. It is eager to understand, to be compassionate and be merciful. It is not tempted to respond to forms of evil with another evil. Indifference and insensitivity quietly develop and accumulate hatred and are prone to respond to evil with evil
When one is patient, he welcomes the negative things in life as occasions to grow in love. In a sense, one looks forward to suffering if only to grow in love, convinced God’s providence is always at work and can always derive good from evil. It does not equate pain and suffering as something good, but rather as chances to derive a greater good.
On the other hand, when one is simply indifferent or insensitive to pain and suffering, he is only playing some games to derive immediate relief from a predicament. Indifference and insensitivity are notoriously short-termed and shallow in outlook.
Patience is based on our faith and hope in God’s providence, and is animated by charity that comes from God and meant to be given back to God through our love for the others. It enters into the spiritual and supernatural dynamic of things. Indifference and insensitivity are simply based on personal beliefs and human ideologies, at best. They only have short-termed practical purposes. They are mainly stop-gap measures.
Patience involves self-forgetfulness and self-detachment. Indifference and insensitivity have the comfort and convenience of oneself as
first priority. They are actually self-centered at bottom.
While patience involves self-forgetfulness and self-detachment, it knows very well that it is the way to fill ourselves with what is truly proper and essential to us—to be identified with Christ.
Indifference and insensitivity has a very limited world that revolves simply around oneself. They practically cannot see anything beyond oneself.
We have to help everyone to understand the true nature of patience and to appreciate its real beauty. And let’s expose the deception, the alluring lie of indifference and insensitivity.*