Guest post by Dr Geoff Arnold
In Praise of Gentleness
“Nothing is so strong as gentleness nothing is so gentle as real strength.” – Francis de Sales
Confusion about Gentleness
Psychologist James Hillman, writing about beauty, observed that “in pursuing what we mean by beauty we are obstructed by the word itself. Beauty strikes the ear as so effete, so ineffectual, lovely and etheric, so far removed from the soul’s desperate concerns”.
Something similar might be said about the word ‘gentleness’. It’s as if we are beguiled by its connotations – both the subtle and sublime associations with softness, tenderness and mildness in thought and behaviour. And yet few things (perhaps nothing) indicates the strength and character of a person more than her or his capacity for gentleness.
Truly gentle people are generally more helpful in resolving difficulties, calmer in a crisis, less reactive under provocation, more respectful to others. Their gentleness can absorb ambition but not afford pretension. If we look beyond the stereotype, they are not necessarily reserved ‘quiet types’ or always introverted. Perhaps, at the internal level, they are simply more accommodating of life’s ambiguities and uncertainties.