Gentle. Think about that word for a moment. Simply repeat it and toss it around your mind for a moment. I shall try not to prattle on for too long, as I believe the previous exercise is sufficient for numerous essays of simple thought and contemplation. However, I would like to elaborate a little on exactly what gentleness is, and to do that, I believe I will start with what gentleness is not, and then reaffirm what I believe gentleness to be.
The most common misconception about gentleness is that it is a way of being soft, even weak. You can either be soft and gentle, or hard and cruel. Anything else would be a contradiction of terms. This, however, is not the case. As St. Francis de Sales said, “Nothing is so strong as gentleness, nothing so gentle as real strength.” To be gentle is to be compassionate, and sometimes the most compassionate thing a person can do for another is to give them a hard push in the right direction.
Another delusion concerning gentleness is that it is a personality, or a character trait. Some people are gentle people, others are rough people. It’s simply the way they were born, and they cannot change. I, on the other hand, would say that gentleness is a state of mind, a way of life. While I agree that certain people are gentle, and some people are rough, I hold that this has nothing to do with what sort of “people” they are born as.
In contrast to the previous fallacies, I find that many people so reject the idea of gentleness being synonymous with softness that they altogether disassociate gentleness with kindness of any sort, moving from the orthodox concept of a hard compassion to something cruel that eventually even ceases to bear the name of gentleness, instead favoring that title of totalitarianism. While found only uncommonly in that stage of tyrannical tendencies still abiding the designation of gentleness, it is at this time that the concept poses the greatest threat to true gentleness, and to society.
As a result of these misapprehensions, it is important to really understand what gentleness is, and what it is not, otherwise we risk ourselves and others being lulled into the belief of the very falsehoods I have just summarized. As the exercise above showed, even the very word of gentleness has a power, causing us to really express physically what the word itself expresses emotionally, this perhaps being the reason the word is often spoken to babies and children. Thus we must not hold gentleness to be anything more or less than the zenith of all kindness, compassion, strength, and justice as it occurs within the world, and within ourselves.