Applied Fruit

Fruit Sculpture

 

Recently, I received a letter from our hospital CEO with these words,

“I congratulate you on being identified as a physician with high impact and high patient experience scores. In addition, I commend you on your significant achievement as rating higher than the national average in the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid database.”

Such complimentary and heartwarming praises are rare for most of us ER physicians. Our physician-patient “relationships” are – for the vast majority of encounters –  singular events. This fact, combined with the above normal level of anxiety and stress most of our patients are under, makes ER docs anonymous to them.

So, of course, I metaphorically patted myself on the back. It’s a welcome merit badge because In the past few years, there has been such an emphasis by hospital administrators on “patient satisfaction.” But, what about God’s satisfaction? What is the Lord’s “rating” of me? Sadly, the truth is, I have fallen quite short of God’s nature which is embodied in the fruit of the Spirit as described in Galatians 5:22-23. We all have.

This verse is one of the most quoted from the Bible. It tells us about the “fruit of the Spirit,” a combination of 9 distinct Christ-like qualities which all Christians ought to emulate. When our patients and our staff see these qualities in us,  even though they may not realize it, they are seeing the Lord Jesus. Do I exhibit them in my daily interactions at work? How do I express each of these qualities?

1. LOVE – unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another

I demonstrate love when I keep the patient’s best interest at the forefront of any decision-making.  As we know, the practice of medicine is an “art” which is manifested through the decision-making process and through our judgment. Loving our patients means to make decisions (to the best of our ability) based on what is best for the patient.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. 1 Cor 13:13 NIV

 

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2. JOY – a feeling of great pleasure and happiness

I show Godly joy when I laugh and smile despite all the chaos and tension around me, and delight in the smallest good or funny thing.

Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again-rejoice! Philippians 4:4, NLT

 

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3. PEACE – freedom from disturbance; quiet and tranquility

When I exhibit inexplicable unflappability in the face of the innumerable critical and stressful cases, the Lord displays His peace through me.

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7 NIV

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4. FORBEARANCE – patient self-control; restraint and tolerance

This is a difficult one for me as I am by nature impulsive and impatient. But, I show God’s patience when I listen attentively; when I care for the rude and offensive patient; when I explain things slowly and patiently to the slow of mind or the elderly or the complainer. The Lord asks us to “clothe” ourselves – in other words, put on – patience. I  may not be naturally long-suffering, but I am putting on patience as the Lord would have me do.

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Col. 3:12 NIV

 

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5. KINDNESS – the quality of being friendly, generous and considerate

I show this quality when I care for the mean-spirited and miserable.  I “clothe” myself with kindness towards them.  They say that it’s the mean and angry one who need kindness the most.

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Col. 3:12 NIV

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6. GOODNESS – the quality of being good (possessing or displaying moral virtue)

There are plenty of opportunities to do the wrong thing during the course of our day. My day is usually filled with hundreds of decisions I must make; some trivial and some more weighty. Deciding to do the good and right is what we should do if we are to manifest the fruit of the Spirit. It’s a slippery slope if we allow ourselves to stray from doing good , and instead decide on what is most lucrative or what is most politically expedient.

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7. FAITHFULNESS – the quality of being loyal, constant and steadfast

This is when I keep my word to a patient and do what I said I would do such as updating them, or letting them know their results. It’s when I complete the task or their care plan even when the patient becomes difficult to care for or unlovable. Being faithful breeds patient-physician trust.

 

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8. GENTLENESS –  mild in temperament or behavior; kind or tender

I am not naturally a gentle person – I have more of a “bull in a china shop” personality. But, when I make the intentional effort to be slow and gentle when examining, prodding, turning and lifting patients, I am exhibiting God’s gentle nature.

 

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9. SELF-CONTROL – the ability to control oneself, in particular one’s emotions and desires or the expression of them in one’s behavior, esp. in difficult situations:

The Emergency Department by its nature is a stressful, busy and noisy environment. Patients are in a “crisis” to some degree; that’s why they decided to come to the ER instead of waiting for an appointment. It’s a set up for miscommunication and misunderstanding, and thus it is easy for us to be the target of patients’ hostility and anger. When I don’t give into the temptation to react, defend or retaliate during a such encounters, I am showing self-control.

 

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I am the first to admit I am far from being able to show the fruit of the Spirit consistently and authentically. In fact, I fail daily and sometimes pretty miserably. Yet, I know His grace fills those gaps where I am lacking. He continues to patiently train us and mold us into Christ-likeness.  When circumstances arise which hurt me or humble me, I remind myself that He is in control and He always has my best interest in mind – 100% of the time. Therefore, I should lift my circumstances up to Him and trust in His sovereign ways.

Dear Lord,
Thank you for your great patience and unending grace towards us. Help us each day to demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit that others may see You and be drawn to Your beauty.

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