201409-living-value

Gentleness may be a rare quality in today’s aggressive world where everybody is trying to make it. It may even be, regrettably, mistaken for weakness or naivety. What makes a person gentle? We use the word gentle to refer to many things including the waves, wind, rain, touch and music, among others. We also use the word gentleman to describe someone who is polite and well mannered.

Gentleness is a way of being that mirrors kindness, consideration and amiability. It means that we are always cognizant that the world around us is fragile, particularly the people who live in it. To be gentle is also to be aware of our own capability to do harm and choosing instead to be tender, soft-spoken, softhearted and careful.

A story is told of George Washington that exhibits how meek and gentle of a man he was. He was once out in the woods with friends on a fox hunting expedition and his horse knocked over a stone while jumping a stonewall in one of the fields they passed through. Washington, without wasting any time, got off his horse and replaced the stone. When one of his friends told him that he was too big a man to concern himself with such matters, he replied, “No, I am just the right size.” As a quality, gentleness also includes true humility that does not consider itself too good or too lofty for tasks that may be considered lowly.

There are a few simple guidelines that can help us to adopt gentleness in our day-to-day lives. For starters it’s important for us to think before acting or responding. When in any situation, think of how your responses or reactions affect others. In addition, train yourself to react in a calm manner in your words and actions. Learning how to empathize by imagining what’s it like to walk in another’s shoes and also responding to others with kindness also go a long way in building the virtue of gentleness.

It’s interesting and also somewhat ironical that we sometimes think of gentle people as weak. Gentleness does not come easy. It is in fact a great show of strength and self-control in many cases. Gentleness can be both firm and powerful and is reflected in your treatment of not only others, but also yourself. Gentleness enables us to touch the world in ways that protect and preserve it.

Reflections

Be soft. Do not let the world make you hard. Do not let pain make you hate. Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness. Take pride that even though the rest of the world may disagree, you still believe it to be a beautiful place.

Kurt Vonnegut (1922-2007), American writer

 

The most beautiful people are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern.

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross (1926-2004), American psychiatrist and pioneer in near-death studies

Be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars. In the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul.

Max Ehrmann (1872-1945), American writer, poet and attorney

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Bible, Galatians 5:22

You cannot be too gentle, too kind. Shun even to appear harsh in your treatment of each other. Joy, radiant joy, streams from the face of one who gives and kindles joy in the heart of one who receives.

St. Seraphim of Sarov (1754-1833), Russian monks and mystics in the Eastern Orthodox Church 

The best index to a person’s character is how he treats people who can’t do him any good – and how he treats people who can’t fight back.

Abigail Van Buren (1918-2013,) American advice columnist and radio show host 

Our problems are not solved by physical force, by hatred, by war. Our problems are solved by loving kindness, by gentleness, by joy.

Buddha (c. 480 BCE – c. 483 BCE), sage on whose teachings Buddhism was founded 

Your thoughts

Contrary to many people’s views, the gentlest people are actually the strongest and most controlled. It’s a quality I am continually striving to achieve, hard as it may be in some situations.

Mukiri Mwendwa, 31, Lawyer

 

Published in September 2014