An Application of Pilgrim’s Progress: Passion and Patience

June 11, 2019 | by James M. Harrison

As Christian continues on his journey, first to the Cross and then to the Celestial City, he arrives at the house of the Interpreter, who would “show him excellent things”. As Christian is escorted around the house, he is led into a little room where he observes two little children. The eldest was named Passion, and the other was named Patience. Of these children, Bunyan writes, “Passion seemed to be much discontent, but Patience was very quiet.”

As Bunyan explains, “Passion will have all now, this year; that is to say, in this world; so are the men of this world: They must have all their good things now, they cannot stay till next year, that is, until the next World, for their portion of good.”

I take an additional application from this, which Bunyan does not focus upon. It seems to me that Passion and Patience may be looked upon, not only as children, but as rulers. Not rulers of lands and kingdoms, but rulers of our choices and decisions. The question we must answer is, which ruler will we submit to. Which will we allow to lead us?

“Passion”, of course, is another way of speaking of emotion…feelings. As Bunyan describes it, Passion is that which wants what it wants, and it wants it now. Passion rules by impulse. Passion rules without thought or consideration.

Patience, on the other hand, is willing to wait. Patience is thoughtful. Patience is calm, deliberate, and wise.

One of these will rule, but which? Has Passion ever been a sound, wise, trustworthy ruler? How often have you remonstrated with yourself, saying, “How I wish I had acted in the unthinking heat of the moment! Things would have worked out so much better if I had acted more precipitously, without waiting to think”. I would venture that you have rarely, if ever, uttered such a thing.

But what of Patience? How often have you seen patience and folly walk hand in hand? They are not close companions. In fact, they are barely passing acquaintances.

Emotion has its place. For instance, we are told to be angry, and yet not sin. But that place is not a throne. Passion is not to lead or rule. Cultivate Patience, then, and control Passion. For, in Bunyan’s words, “Patience has the best wisdom.”

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