Adam Eitel / Constraining Sorrow, Contemplating Joy / Patience Part 4


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"So here's a fact of human life. We have sorrow and, in many ways, That's neither here nor there, neither good nor bad, but we know intuitively that there are ways in which our sorrow can become excessive or misplaced.What the virtue of patience does is it moderates sorrow or constrains it, so it doesn't go beyond its proper limit. When we become too absorbed in trouble and woe, a lot of other things start to go wrong and that's why someone like Gregory the Great called patience the guardian of the virtues, because sorrow, if it's not checked, can easily devolve into anger, hatred, and fear. ... What it means to moderate sorrow isn't to suppress it, or to develop some kind of affected callousness or disenchanted, jaded relation to the things that one actually really loves."

"You'll discover really quickly that you can't think about patience—you can't experience patience—without thinking about and experiencing joy. Joy is the antithesis of sorrow—its remedy."

Though it's tempting to think patience is a correction for hurry, busyness, scarcity of time, and haste, it's ultimately about managing your sorrow. Adam Eitel is an ethicist at Yale Divinity School who specializes in the thought of Thomas Aquinas. In this episode, he reflects on the human side of the virtue of patience and its place in the moral life—examining how it moderates our passions and responses to sorrow, finding surprising connections between patience, joy, and contemplation, and opening up toward an experiential theology that must comment on patience only from inside the struggle to receive it.

Part 4 of a 6-episode series on Patience, hosted by Ryan McAnnally-Linz.

Show Notes

  • The context for Thomas Aquinas and his friars
  • "The friars are on the verge of being canceled."
  • What is a virtue? "To have them is to have a kind of excellence and to be able to do excellent things."
  • Where does patience fit in the virtues?
  • Matter and Object
  • The matter of a virtue is the thing it's about, and the matter of patience is sorrow.
  • Sorrow can have right or wrong objects and can be excessive or deficient.
  • Sorrow is elicited by evil, that is, the diminishment of good.
  • Patience is a moderating virtue for the passions, similar to courage.
  • Patience is connected to fortitude or courage in moderating our response to "the saddest things."
  • "Patience moderates or constrains sorrow, so that it doesn't go beyond its proper limit. When we become too absorbed in trouble or woe, alot of other things start to go wrong. That's what Gregory the Great called patience the guardian of the virtues. .... deteriorate." (or to ... guardian of the virtues in that sense.")
  • What does it feel like to be patient on this account?
  • You can't experience patience without experiencing joy.
  • "Joy is the antithesis of sorrow. Its remedy."
  • Remedies: Take a bath, go to sleep, drink some wine, talk to a friend ... and at the top of the list is contemplation of God.
  • Contemplation for Aquinas: prayer, chanting psalms, drawing one's mind to the presence of God.
  • Experientia Dei—taste and see
  • "This is scandalous to most virtue theorists ... but you can't have patience, or at least not much of it, without contemplation."
  • "Moderating sorrow is not to suppress it or develop an affected callousness or disenchanted, jaded relation to the things one really loves."
  • "Patience never means ignoring or turning away from the thing that's genuinely sorrowful."
  • Diminishment of sorrow by nesting it among the many other goods.
  • Modulate one's understanding of the thing that's sorrowful.
  • The sorrow of losing a child
  • You can only write about it from inside of it.
  • What is it? "Beneath the agitation, some kind of low grade anger, is there some sorrow? What has been lost? What have I been wanting that is not here? What's beneath the anger? What is it?"
  • What scripture anchors you? "Find that scripture that anchors you in patience, and let it become yours. Let God speak to you through it.

About Adam Eitel

Adam Eitel is Assistant Professor of Ethics at Yale Divinity School. He focuses his research and teaching on the history of Christian moral thought, contemporary social ethics and criticism, and modern religious thought. Dr. Eitel has roughly a dozen books, chapters, edited volumes, and articles published or in progress. These include an ethical analysis of drone strikes and a theological account of domination. His current book project explores the role of love in the moral theology of Thomas Aquinas. A 2004 Baylor University graduate and a Fulbright Scholar at the University of Fribourg, Dr. Eitel received his M.Div. and Ph.D. from Princeton Theological Seminary, completing the latter in 2015.

Production Notes

  • This podcast featured theologians Adam Eitel and Ryan McAnnally-Linz
  • Edited and Produced by Evan Rosa
  • Hosted by Evan Rosa
  • Production Assistance by Martin Chan & Nathan Jowers
  • A Production of the Yale Center for Faith & Culture at Yale Divinity School
  • Support For the Life of the World podcast by giving to the Yale Center for Faith & Culture:

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