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\”Gentleness\” – Word of the Week

Definition of the word of the week (GENTLENESS): Considerate or kindly in disposition; amiable

It took me some time to learn that it takes strength not to react to baiting from peers to do something stupid. It also takes strength to be gentle. Those who are truly insecure cannot handle it.

When I think of gentleness, several vignettes come to mind. I see the seasoned warrior tenderly holding a child to keep danger away. I see the firefighter wrapping a baby in a blanket and rushing out of a burning building. I see the rather large athlete with bulging arms caressing an infant. I see a husband or boyfriend treating his companion with dignity and respect while cherishing the life that they are building. I see a wife or girlfriend pausing before criticizing, making a point and then letting the issue drop in order to avoid nagging. I see people befriending others who are not in their particular socio-economic strata. Finally, I see a friend keeping a confidence and not rebuking a confident who had gone astray while tenderly leading him or her back to the path of truth and light.

We are not marionettes and we can choose how we will respond to a situation. Someone provoking us does not “cause” us to react a certain way. Gentleness provides a moderate response to extreme situations. I remember returning from a road trip and our route took us through downtown Atlanta. My friend was driving his van South on I-75 and another driver, not only cut him off, but then flipped him the finger in order to add insult to injury. Who would have blamed him if he had responded in kind? Instead, my friend simply waved and smiled. His choice immediately diffused a situation that could have potential become much worse. He was also a great role-model for the boys in the van.

In order to teach our children gentleness, we must do two things. First, we must role-model that behavior. Actions clearly speak louder than words and we need to walk-the walk. Then, we must treat the children with gentleness so that they can see, first hand, that it is the better way. When children do something cruel, we should focus on the behavior and not the person. We should say something like, “What you did was cruel. How do you think it made that person feel?” We should not say, “You are mean.” Even more importantly than correcting behavioral shortcomings, we should laud admirable behavior so that it is repeated until it becomes a habit. They will then learn what most of us already know. As the author Leo Rosten noted, “I learned that it is the weak who are cruel, and that gentleness is to be expected only from the strong.”

The following quotations are intended to assist in explaining and exemplifying the word of the week:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Galatians, Bible

Gentleness, self-sacrifice and generosity are the exclusive possession of no one race or religion. Mohandas Gandhi, Spiritual leader

I place a high moral value on the way people behave. I find it repellent to have a lot, and to behave with anything other than courtesy in the old sense of the word – politeness of the heart, a gentleness of the spirit. Emma Thompson, Actress

It is only persons of firmness that can have real gentleness. Francois De La Rochefoucauld, Writer

There is nothing stronger in the world than gentleness. Han Suyin, Novelist

Nothing is so strong as gentleness and nothing so gentle as true strength. Ralph Sockman

Gentleness corrects whatever is offensive in our manner. Hugh Blair, Poet

Let your enemies be disarmed by the gentleness of your manner, but at the same time let them feel the steadiness of your resentment. Lord Chesterfield, Statesman

Gentleness is the antidote for cruelty. Phaedrus, Writer

Force is legitimate where gentleness avails not. Pierre Corneille, Dramatist

When you encounter difficulties and contradictions, do not try to break them, but bend them with gentleness and time. Saint Francis de Sales

I have three precious things that I hold fast and prize. The first is gentleness; the second is frugality; the third is humility, which keeps me from putting myself before others. Be gentle and you can be bold; be frugal and you can be liberal; avoid putting yourself before others and you can become a leader among men. Lao-Tzu, Philosopher

But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. Book of Peter, Bible

LTC Patrick Beer, the Dean of Students and Commandant of Cadets at Georgia Military College, prepares this study guide each week as part of the institution’s character education program. He welcomes comments and suggestions from readers. He can be contacted by phone, 478-445-2710 or by email, pbeer@gmc.cc.ga.us