I have been thinking somewhat sadly about gentleness.

The sadness comes not from any problem with gentleness itself but from my awareness that gentleness is a rare quality so seldom found in human exchange and so difficult to embody in my own life.

In my little book Spirit Life I published a “Gentleness Manifesto.” I recently revisited my “Manifesto” and added a few comments to my original thoughts:

1. I will not seek to push you where you are not able or willing to go.

I may have great plans and visions for your life. I may believe I know better for you than you know for yourself what is best for your life. Gentleness requires that I renounce the presumption of my arrogant ignorance. I do not live inside your life; I do not know what is best for you or what you need at this point in your life to become more fully the person you were created to be. To be gentle is to support you in discovering the truth of your life for yourself.

2. I will not use you to fulfill my own needs, demands, or desires.

This tendency can be so subtle and insidious. It comes masked at times as goodwill, charity, kindness, even compassion. At times, my attempts to be your “helper” run dangerously close to self-service narcissism.  It requires deep honesty, self-awareness and openness for me to avoid using you to meet my wishes.You were not created to satisfy my wants or desires. Violence always results when I demand that you fulfill my perceived needs or when I use you to satisfy my desires. Gentleness wants you to find your own inner strength and to be free of my needs, demands, or desires.

3. I will not have expectations that you should be other than you are.

Of course we hope and work for general civility in human community. Human communities must take reasonable measures to do what they can to preserve as much safety as can be realistically anticipated in the uncertainty and turmoil of life. I do not know the factors in your life that have brought you to the place where you behave as you do.  When I find your behaviour difficult, I can bear witness to the possibility of a different way of being by the way I live my life; but  I am powerless to change you and should not even try if I could.

4. I will not resist or harden against you even when I feel hurt.

My tendency to close my heart to life is almost boundless. Gentleness is impossible for a closed heart. My body tightens when I feel threatened. I want to run away, find a place that feels safe. Gentleness chooses to stop, stand still, relax my shoulders, open my heart and see you before me with all your own vulnerability, uncertainty and fear. Gentleness does not try to manage the situation.  The world does not need more smooth operators or managers. The world needs more openness, responsiveness, softness, and flexibility. It takes a strong secure sense of identity to live from such an authentically human place within myself.

5. I will not blame you for my own unhappiness or discomfort.

I need to take personal responsibility for my life, my choices, my reactions, and my feelings. You are not the cause of my unhappiness or discomfort. You do not exist to make me happy. I need to grow to the point in my life where I am able to see that reactivity is a choice. The bitterness, resentment, judgement, and resistance that so often poison my interactions with the people in my life are not forced upon me. Rather than giving away my life to external forces, I will seek to find within myself the freedom to choose life-giving responses and to live in the light of my true and deepest nature.