I talked about the social vice known as arrogance. A social virtue that hits closer to home for me is patience. I desire that patience lead me to put the greater good above the good of being understood. This is the prayer of St. Francis. This is the patience of a Saint.
A simple portrayal of this extraordinary patience is the story of Cinderella.
The Patience of a Saint
When I was young, I thought of Cinderella as a poor, innocent girl. She is badly treated by her evil stepmother and stepsisters. Good is persecuted by evil. Eventually, a greater good finds the girl, and she is saved from evil.
I only compared myself to Cinderella when I thought I was being unfairly treated. I was being forced to do and serve when really I should be served. I was a victim.
To think of Cinderella as a victim is to understand her only a little better than her ugly stepsisters. In a way, the worst thing that they did was to misunderstand her; they judged her to be weak, stupid, and naive. When I think that all she is is a victim, I commit the same crime against her.
Truly, she was a powerful source of good in the lives of her stepfamily. They were weak and incapable of seeing it. The 2015 (live action) Cinderella does an excellent job of pointing out her strength. Her motto is “Have courage and be kind!” Her courage and kindness, even in difficult circumstances, show a strength that is beyond the understanding of most other characters in the movie.
To me, it is significant that Cinderella is a woman. I think women particularly struggle with misunderstanding. Because we have a gift to understand others, we are more keenly aware of when we are not understood. That can easily lead us to bitterness.
Cinderella faces the despair of never being understood. But it does not lead her to bitterness. Rather, her suffering brings her to extraordinary understanding of all around her. Her own description of her situation is, “They treat me as well as they are able.” What gentleness and understanding she extends to those who are rough with her and understand nothing!
I have tested Jesus that way, too. Because I am unable to understand His suffering, I think of him only as the victim. But in truth, He is so much more.
Like Cinderella, he extends understanding towards those who can never understand and have caused such great hurt. As we do for Cinderella, we simply play along with misunderstanding… We understand as well as we are able.