Gentleness is Strength: The 7 Habits of Highly Gentle People

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.

Gentleness is Strength

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.

Gentle People:

  • 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)

19 comments
  1. I didn’t even realise I was gentle until recently I started to look at what people often say about me and it kept coming up, along with other similar words that basically meant the same thing. It got me thinking. And observing my own ways. I realised that it must be one of the reasons I seem to be able to get along with all kinds of people and have never felt threatened or worried by situations that other people are worried in (like “what will they think of me?” type situations) and often get people smiling at me.

    One of the things I noticed I do is when I’m upset or having a bad day when I’m out in the street I look for something, anything, that will give me hope and familiarly (can be something as simple as the way the sun is in the sky and how it reminds me of a happy time) and it seems to show on my face because people sort of smile back at me when I’m happy.

    So it seems like the key is to be happy in your own world and then nothing can bring you down it seems? Who knows?!

  2. Hello, I always seek the gentle strength but I’m finding it difficult. One, I have no models for this kind of strength. Two, I always feel strongly when people important to me makes me feel like I don’t matter. As much as I want to have the calm strong attitude. This anger, this frustration, the inability to express it (because I will be seen as irrational) is getting on my way. I don’t know how to deal with it. What can I do?

    1. Hi. Yeah it can be hard when you don’t have anyone modelling gentleness to you, especially if those close to you make you feel unimportant or belittled. I suppose it starts by being aware of how things make you feel and how certain relationships leave you feeling. Then add as much space as you can between those moments where you feel frustrated and angry, and the way you then choose to respond. The less reactionary you are (people closest to us often know how to push our buttons and set us off), the more you can choose the way you respond and choose to be gentle and calm in your reaction. It’s not easy but it is a fairly fun challenge to undertake when you become aware of it. I hope that helps a bit. Sorry I can’t be of more assistance!

      1. Thanks, though, Andy. I’ve been having a rough time and I’ve been searching for answers. What you’ve said strengthened the advice that was given to me from what I’ve researched 🙂

        1. Sorry to hear you’re having a rough time. It sounds like you’re searching for answers/ways forward in very positive ways. Keep it up, and I hope things improve.

    2. It helps when your intention is: BE A BETTER PERSON TODAY

      Where there are no role models, one must make themself into the person they wish they had met. Be led by goodness and you will become more than you had ever imagined darling~

    3. Callie, ever thought about looking for other people to care about? It took me half a life time to figger out that some people you love, just don’t love you back and keep hurting you. No matter how gentle you want to be, you’re still the most important person in your life.

  3. I used to be a gentle but i had to adapt to survive in this world… or so i thought, that gentleness is the one thing i wish id have never thrown away :/

  4. Thank you so much for writing about this as a gentle reminder to try intentionally regain/ practise this quality, that at times seems so hard to adopt in the face of immense frustration at work. I used to be so gentle and feel quite sad that I often react and respond in such an opposite manner. Baby steps again ! New to your podcasts etc -loving it all.

    1. So nice to hear from you Michele. Lovely attitude! It’s never too late to regain your gentleness. Baby steps as you say. Can’t wait to hear more from you as you embark and continue on this journey.

  5. As an athletic type, I was continually encouraged to “be aggressive” which I have found to be a real hindrance in my intimate relationships now in my adult life. Despite my spirituality calming my reactionary temper through the years, still I continue to struggle with insensitivity.

    After reading this article, I have completely changed my perspective on gentleness!! I am inspired to begin to draw from this noble virtue with more force and vigor~

  6. I want this super power so badly! I feel there is a softer, kinder, gentler me in there somewhere, but then I usually screw it up with moments of cursing and anger and irritability. I will keep trying though. I believe God put me here to be Love and act in loving, kind ways. I think a lot of my work will be in releasing and surrendering, letting go. God Bless you all, dear souls!

    1. We all get those moments of cursing, anger and irritability. Well I know I do! The gentleness is in there though. We’re all works in progress. So glad you find something appealing in it. That gives hope to the world for sure! 🙂 Thanks for sharing, so nice to hear from another aspiring gentle rebel!!

  7. Great tips. A definition I have heard of being gentle is ‘strength under control”. You respond rather than react. One of the things that help me practice gentleness is the opposite word to gentleness which is ‘harsh’ ‘mean’ and ‘rough and ‘base’. When I remember these words and keep in mind that is not person I want to be. I practice gentleness. I also think that gentleness can be described as being ‘classy’. I would also like to add here that I am a devout Christian and rely and lean on God to help me behave in a gentle way.

    1. I like that definition a lot. There is something powerful about thinking about the kind of person you want to be (and who you don’t want to be). You’re so right. Great tip! Thanks so much for sharing 🙂

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