Further texts and reflections on: Tenderness – Gentleness – Mercy – Compassion

the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. (James 3:17)

If I am going to practice “gentleness” I must be “willing to yield.” I must be open to the possibility that I may be wrong; I may not have all the answers; I may not know the whole truth. Gentleness is always willing to learn and has the humility to find the truth that is present even in those with whom I may disagree. When I practice gentleness, I am willing to admit that I do not know better for you what is best for your life than you know for yourself.

we were gentle among you, like a nurse tenderly caring for her own children. (I Thessalonians 2:7)

Gentleness nurtures. It gives itself to the other without demanding payment in return. A mother demands nothing of her nursing infant. She seeks only to offer sustenance so that the child may grow into the fullness for which he or she was created. When I am harsh I destroy the environment that leads to life. When my life is characterized by gentleness, I become a person around whom others experience an invitation to enter more fully and deeply into the realization of their true nature. Around gentleness, we all feel encouraged to expand. We can breathe more easily in the company of gentle people and so our true self is supported by gentleness.

Every high priest chosen from among mortals is put in charge of things pertaining to God on their behalf, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. He is able to deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is subject to weakness. (Hebrews 5:1-2)

I am only able to be gentle towards others in their brokenness when I acknowledge that I too am “subject to weakness.” I fail. I fall short. I do not measure up to the fullness of that image of God in which I was created. I can be compassionate with you in your poverty because I experience the depths of my own inadequacy so deeply. To be gentle is to be deeply honest and authentic.

Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. (Matthew 5:7)

Mercy grows as mercy is shared. What I give to people I tend to receive from people. When I give mercy I receive mercy.

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. (Matthew 9:36)

People who are “harassed and helpless” are sometimes hard to be around. Compassion understands that they are doing the best they can given the circumstances of their lives.

Compassion means “to suffer with.” Rather than demanding they change/”improve” (according to my vision of what their lives should look like), gentleness is willing to suffer with the crowds that are “harassed and helpless.” To be gentle is to be willing to enter into and share the pain of the other person.

When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick. (Matthew 14:14)

The attitude with which I meet the world, brings either more violence, fragmentation and pain, or it brings healing. Gentleness brings healing. When I am hard and demanding I introduce brokenness into the human community. When I respond with gentleness, human relationship is restored. In the face of gentleness, the world becomes more whole.


see also: