I am often not a gentle person. I’m brash, stubborn, opinionated and determined. I can be easily angered. And in my campaign to prove that I’m right, I often intimidate others into silence. This may be hard to believe, but those who know me well can testify to seeing this side of me.
But many years ago I read St. Francis de Sales’ words, and they resonated with me– because I know this to be true in my own life. When we feel strongly about something, it is easy to forget that transformation comes by invitation, not by brute force. Even we are invited into goodness, joy, peace and hope through avenues of gentleness, though we may not quickly realize it. We respond to those things that embrace us, free us, and move us tenderly.
What is gentleness, then? One of my friends once explained that it’s a posture towards something that takes into account its state of being. Gentleness, she said, is the way you handle a feeble person, or a rare book. It’s the way you pick up a soft contact lens, or a delicate flower. It’s the way you speak to a frightened child who doesn’t know better.
Gentleness is not my strong suit. When I am misunderstood, or when I don’t get my way, I (figuratively) stomp my feet and use stronger words. I raise my voice. I argue for the sake of winning– which I love. I don’t respond with a listening ear, and my vision is clouded with a sickly self-righteousness. Indignation becomes anger, which in turn becomes brute force.
But contrary to my natural inclinations, I am learning that gentleness is a revolutionary force in itself. It doesn’t push; it invites. It doesn’t insist; it listens. And in an unexpected way, it is incredibly persuasive.
Most of all, it requires great strength to be gentle. More strength, I would say, than to be forceful.
I’m not talking about stripping myself of what makes me special. In fact, my husband says he was drawn to me six years ago by my fiery passion for everything that I do, and it is still something he really loves about me. So I don’t plan to change that about myself.
What I desire is the ability to express my passion in gentle ways. I want to walk into a room and bring peace, not anxiety. I want my voice to engage, not intimidate. And ultimately I desire to grow in mercy towards myself and others.
Friends, this is my journey and I am so grateful to be able to share it with you. Gentleness is a gift that I deeply appreciate and yet find incredibly difficult. So what’s your journey? What do you desire–great or small– to become? I’d love to know!