We had a sermon mentioning this fruit of the Holy Spirit last Sunday, and it struck me quite forcefully.
The twelve fruits of the Holy Spirit are a little difficult to remember off-hand; this is partly due, I'm sure, to the fact that there are so many different descriptions of them. I looked them up in the Catechism:
1832 The fruits of the Spirit are perfections that the Holy Spirit forms in us as the first fruits of eternal glory. The tradition of the Church lists twelve of them: "charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, chastity."
No mention of forbearance. Next I tried the Simple Prayer Book produced by the CTS:
Charity, Joy, Peace, Patience, Goodness, Kindness, Long-suffering, Mildness, Faith, Modesty, Self-Control, Chastity.
I finally looked up Galatians 5:22-23 (Douay-Rheims)
"But the fruit of the Spirit is, charity, joy, peace, patience, benignity, goodness, longanimity, mildness, faith, modesty, continency, chastity."
Fr. Tim had mentioned to me that forbearance was sometimes described as "long-suffering." By doing a compare-and-contrast, and using a bit of common sense, it seems that forbearance is actually the "generosity" mentioned in the Catechism (not a meaning of the word which had ever occurred to me) and the "longanimity" of the Douay-Rheims.
Now, I'd always considered the gift of being long-suffering as a bit of a wishy-washy, insipid sort of gift to have. And what was the difference between long-suffering and patience anyway?
Sunday's sermon really brought it home to me. Forbearance isn't just "putting up with things" in a resigned, wishy-washy manner. It is accepting difficulties, insults and slights, when they are not deserved. That is what makes it generosity. It is the ultimate antidote to the blame culture.
Fr. Tim told us that sometimes the devil stirs up resentments and ill-feeling, even among very good people, by making them feel hard-done-by and unjustly treated. Forbearance means swallowing one's pride, and refusing to allow a sense of grievance to develop. He used an example from his school days, when he was caned for something he didn't do. "Ah yes," was his mother's reply, "but think of the times when you did do something, and didn't get caned."
To accept adversity and insult when it isn't deserved, to accept them calmly and with equanimity, because there may have been times when such adversity and insult would have been deserved, well, I think I can now see that this is far from being wishy-washy.
God, grant me forbearance.