There is nothing that shows your strength better than your gentleness.
It might sound a little bit odd. It may come across as some kind of a contradiction, but if you think about it for just a minute it makes sense.
“Most of us, I believe, admire strength. It’s something we tend to respect in others, desire for ourselves, and wish for our children. Sometimes, though, I wonder if we confuse strength and other words–like aggression and even violence. Real strength is neither male nor female; but is, quite simply, one of the finest characteristics that any human being can possess.”
– Mr Rogers
Strength is the ability to do things that need a lot of physical or mental effort. It’s the choice to continue through the pain even when it feels unbearably hard.
Gentleness breeds peace, calm, and consistency of character. It is not volatile or abrupt in its response to the world.
Gentleness is strength because it remains constant and clear-minded across all manner of situations.
Characteristics of True Strength
There is nothing strong about the person who is quick to lose temper and resort to aggression and violence in their spirit, words, and action. This is anything but strength, it is in fact a display of profound weakness.
The gentle person attracts the trust of others because of this strength.
Their character is consistent, reliable, and steady. They are aware of the needs of the people around them and willing to bring their natural and peaceful disposition to the party.
Everyone carries gentleness within the core of their being. I believe that this gentleness pulses deep within us all and that there are certain steps that we can take to actively bring it out to the surface of our characters.
I have also come to believe that acting with gentleness is an act of rebellion.
It stands counter to the expectations of a quick tempered, blame-fuelled culture where we want to take our frustrations out by criticising others, shirking responsibility, and fearing and fighting anyone or any way of life that we don’t understand or subscribe to.
So how can we develop strength founded in gentleness?
What does this profoundly different display of strength look like? There are a few things we can do in any situation to embrace our gentle core and avoid the pitfalls of mindless aggression and violence.
1. Be Conscious of Your Feelings
We don’t always like to confront how we really feel about things. We are often quick to sugar coat and gloss over our natural emotional response to people and situations. But the gentle spirit acknowledges the truth of what is being felt. If you are sad then you are sad, if you are angry then you are angry.
There is an unchangeable truth in this.
Pretending will not make it disappear, it will just push those feelings beneath the surface. Your emotional response is neither right or wrong, but it IS true. Learn this language, and be honest with yourself about it.
Ask yourself how you are really feeling about what is happening here? It may take a while to break through the surface. You can find the answer in all sorts of places – how is your body responding? Are you tense? Are you stressed? Sick? What is your body telling you about how you feel in your mind?
2. Use the Space between Stimulus and Response
Gentle people make and embrace the time and space between something happening and when the respond to it. Stephen Covey talks about this in the The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People and I definitely see it as a habit of Highly Gentle People too.
- aren’t reactionary
- don’t respond immediately
- stop and take a metaphorical step back to ground themselves within that moment between the stimulus (something happens TO them) and the response (they decide what they are going to do about it)
- are strong and full of self-control (they choose if and how to react)
3. Allow Yourself to Care
Similar to the first point, another key factor in the gentle spirit is simply acknowledging and allowing yourself to care about things (other people, the world, your hopes and dreams).
It is so easy to become disenfranchised and switch off your heart. Certain situations can quickly feel hopeless, pointless, and futile if we allow them. Our experiences can lead us to become disinterested.
Maybe you’ve been hurt, let down, or taken for a ride in the past. When we turn off we remove our investment and begin to resent the emotional and physical effort that we are spending. If we are not aware and don’t make the intentional decision to care, then ‘off’ may well become the default position.
4. Take your Focus Deeper
Why does this situation matter? Why is this person important? The gentle spirit will find reasons that ignite a positive motivation.
They find an excuse to say ‘yes this is worth my attention and investment’.
They are aware of a deeper sense of purpose so that when it feels futile or meaningless they can draw on a reason to continue that transcends their own ability to muster energy.
5. Decide What You are Going to Do
Rather than reacting, gentle spirits embrace their ability to choose.
From the space between the stimulus and response comes this foundation where you know what your next step will be and you can identify the intention behind it. Gentleness has insight to see implications and consequences of action. The action is taken now with a good idea of what will happen as a result of what is done. The rational decision is taken at the expense of a regrettable emotive reaction.
6. Follow Up with Anyone Else Affected
Making human connections is what breeds gentleness. Cultivating empathy, and an understanding that the world doesn’t revolve around their perception of reality is a habit of the gentle spirit.
Other people care about other things for reasons that you might not yet fully grasp. That doesn’t make them wrong. Empathy comes through gentle strength; by seeking to experience the world through their senses you find a place to make a profound difference in their lives.
As the famous quote of disputed origins says: ‘be kind/gentle, for everyone you meet is fighting a difficult battle’.
Who else is affected by the situation? The gentle spirit feels the wider impact beyond that which it feels simply for themselves.
7. Record your Experiences
Gentle spirited people observe the world. They observe themselves, other people, and the situations they experience. Reflecting on these things is an important part of learning and growing in the future. The more that you intentionally acknowledge your responses to things the more control you will have over them next time.
And the more control you have, the more space you have to choose to be gentle.
Over to You
Question: Do you see gentleness as strength? Where in your life would you like to cultivate a broader spirit of gentleness? (Please leave your answer in the comments below)