4th Sunday in Lent 31 March

13Who is wise and understanding among you? Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom.

14But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not be boastful and false to the truth. 15Such wisdom does not come down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, devilish. 16For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind.

What does wisdom and a good life look like?

James’ answer may come as a bit of a surprise. A wise good life looks like “gentleness.”

I am not sure the world is a big fan of “gentleness.” We tend to prefer the aggressive out-going kick-butt skills that we associate with the can-do leader. We want someone who can power through every impediment, conquer any weakness and defeat every obstacle that gets in the way of reaching our goal.

I have never been a can-do kind of leader. I am more naturally oriented towards waiting to see what emerges, and finding our way together through consultation. I want to pay attention to obstacles, heed weaknesses, and seek to find the wisdom being revealed when we falter. I prefer listening to telling.

But, in spite of my shortcomings as a take charge, man-the-barricades kind of guy, I am not sure that “gentleness” is always my first response to bumps in the road. I have been known to growl and push when I do not get my way.

The problem with “gentleness” is that we have been enculturated to see it as weakness. The gentle one is the one who will never get what he wants; he will always be trampled by the school-yard bully and live a life of frustration and aggravation.

But in the realm of the spirit, “gentleness” is the means of opening to the deeper wisdom of the inner life. It connects us to true strength because it has abandoned any need for life to turn out a certain way. When I am gentle, I put down my demand that life conform to my wishes.

Letting go is a work in progress for anyone. To be on the path of the spirit, is to walk towards great abandonment and find growing “gentleness.”