The enemy of gentleness is the feeling that there is something I need to protect and that you pose a threat to my well-being.

The weeds of fear choke the tender plant of gentleness. Gentleness will not long survive in the territory of insecurity.

Gentleness thrives only where there is true strength and genuine security.

Gentleness grows freely when I come to recognize within myself a quality that cannot be destroyed, or even threatened because it does not depend upon you treating me a certain way. I can afford to be gentle when I know there is nothing you can take from me; you have no power over me. Gentleness is the sign and the outcome of true strength.

It is relatively easy to be gentle towards a small child. A child is not a threat. The child only begins to be perceived as a threat when he starts to exert his will over the world. It is only when the child’s will comes into conflict with my will that I feel the need to impose restrictions and controls on the child’s behaviour, often as much out of a desire to protect myself as for the child’s well-being.

When I experience deep inner security I do not need to control you. I can live in freedom, not because I know you will never let me down, betray me, or hurt me, but because I trust within myself that strength that will always support me no matter what may happen in the external circumstances of my life.

I do not need to protect myself from forces by which I feel threatened; I have nothing left to protect. I do not need to shore up a false sense of identity, or establish some fantasy of security in the external manifestations of life. This is true freedom. And, it is only in this fertile soil of freedom that gentleness has the capacity to grow.

Jesus was tilling the ground for gentleness when he instructed his disciples,

I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also. (Matthew 5:39)

It is only possible to even begin following such a radical instruction when I have found within myself a strength that no power on earth can overcome.

The tragedy is that gentleness is my true nature and yet so often, I feel driven to choose other options. I feel compelled to retaliate, to build a rigid fortress around myself, to demean you, get even with you, judge you, or just maintain an icy distance. These are not responses for which I was created.

I come closer to my true nature when I look in the eyes of an infant and feel my heart opening with warmth and softness. I come closer to my true nature when the barriers come down and I am able to simply receive you as you are without demand or expectation. Gentleness chooses again and again to open to the world and to life as they present themselves. I discover my true strength when I choose not to shut down, not to close you out, not to retreat behind the fortress of my own aggression, indifference, or stinging critique.

Every situation in which I feel tempted to respond with even the most subtle hidden violence of irritability is a sign that I am living from my insecurity rather than from that true strength that is God’s image at the centre of my being. Whenever I feel threatened, I am being offered the opportunity to choose my true nature and to move toward that gentle reality that is the strength of God’s Spirit at work in my heart.

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nb #1: in my book Spirit Life speaking about the last of the “fruit of the Spirit” listed in Paul’s Letter to the Galatians 5:22,23, I suggest:

The Greek word enkrateia, which is commonly translated as “self-control,” is a compound word consisting of two Greek words: en, which means “in,” and kratos, which means “strength.” So the word literally means “in strength.” A much better translation than “self-control” would be “strength within” or “inner strength.” Paul’s final fruit of the Spirit is the quality of inner strength that comes from opening to the presence and power of God dwelling within our innermost being. (Page, Christopher. Spirit Life, Toronto: Anglican Book Centre, 2007, p. 129)

nb #2: Gentleness seems to be a bit of an obsession at IASP:

https://inaspaciousplace.wordpress.com/2010/06/07/gentleness/

https://inaspaciousplace.wordpress.com/2012/07/20/gentleness-why-is-it-so-hard/

https://inaspaciousplace.wordpress.com/2012/07/21/gentleness-a-manifesto/

https://inaspaciousplace.wordpress.com/2012/08/13/gentleness-2/

https://inaspaciousplace.wordpress.com/2013/05/23/gentleness-3/

https://inaspaciousplace.wordpress.com/2015/06/04/gentleness-manifesto-1/

https://inaspaciousplace.wordpress.com/2015/06/05/gentleness-manifesto-2/

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