Gentleness Builds Strength From The Inside-Out

Gentleness is not weakness.

“We think too much and feel too little. More than machinery, we need humanity. More than cleverness, we need kindness and gentleness. Without these qualities, life will be violent and all will be lost.”

– Charlie Chaplin

Throughout history, gentleness has been written about as a source of strength. It’s been valued and celebrated as a desirable trait.

For highly sensitive people and introverts, there are some potential obstacles to gentleness…

  • When we get overwhelmed we might shutdown, lash out, or run away.
  • When things are unsettled within us, our outward gentleness might suffer. This can happen when we’re trying to live a life on someone else’s terms.
  • When encountering energy saps who transfer their toxic energy onto us and remove our positive, creative energy.
  • Or simply when we have too much on our plate and haven’t managed things in the most healthy way for us.

Let’s explore ways to live in step with our natural rhythms and cultivate gentleness when we need it most.

I first shared these videos in the summer of 2019.

How much of that do we see in the world around us today? Kindness. Gentleness. Compassion.

While these words have become somewhat overused (not to mention misused), they still really matter. They are active rather than passive, difficult rather than easy, and they require us to see and hold other people in ways we don’t necessarily want to.

Why Bother Being Gentle in a Cruel World?

Some people ask if there’s any point being kind and gentle in an uncaring world. I feel that deeply. Along with the temptation to fight fire with fire.

And maybe you’re thinking, ‘I don’t want to be gentle with others anyway’. Fair enough. But there are some very good reasons why we need more gentleness in the world. And if there’s even the smallest inkling that you wish people were a bit more gentle with you, this is where it starts.

The world changes from the inside out. It starts with us. This is responsibility. The life giving alternative to the life-sucking attitude of blame and finger pointing.

What Kind of World Are We Creating?

It all depends on the world we want to be part of creating together. We cannot escape the fact that whatever means we use to reach a destination are the foundations on which the future is built. So our vision can’t only be where we want to be, it must also include how we want to get there. Because integrity (alignment of values and actions) cannot be spoken into existence, it is enacted and embodied.

An old proverb says, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”

Gentleness is a way of holding ourselves and others with a firm back and soft front. It doesn’t shy away from difficult conversations. On the contrary it makes space for them and brings space TO them, so that connection can be made. The stirring up of anger often happens, not because we speak truth, but because we speak without compassion.

Gentleness is Resistance

And what about people who DO just want to deliberately harm, offend, and inflict suffering? What about those encounters we DO have with liars, cheats, and narcissists?

Inward gentleness gives us the strength to respond better to bullies and bigots. These individuals thrive on making others feel hurt and offended to maintain control. But those of us who live life from a place of inward gentleness don’t give them the satisfaction they seek. Instead, we respond with firmness, strength, and power from a deeper place within us. Our response doesn’t stem from an emotional reaction to their words and actions but from hope for something better, a love for those who share this vision, and a trust in bringing it into the light. We don’t play the victim or seek revenge; we respond with hope, love, and confidence. We model the world we want to see.

When we are gentle with ourselves, the words of others can’t penetrate. We know how we are; we are at peace with it, feel a deep acceptance of our place in the universe, and filter through the eyes of love and unity, not fear and hate. Abundance, not scarcity. Connection, not division.

The Weak Lack Gentleness

Aristotle said: “Gentleness is the ability to bear reproaches and slights with moderation, and not to embark on revenge quickly, and not to be easily provoked to anger, but be free from bitterness and contentiousness, having tranquility and stability in the spirit.”

And Leo Rosten remarked, “I learned that it is the weak who are cruel, and that gentleness is to be expected only from the strong.”

In other words, gentleness is the creative spirit with which we engage the world. It’s underpinned by foundational assumptions about the good in people (including ourselves), and the type of world we want to grow towards.

Marcus Aurelius says, “You need to be prepared for firm decisions and action, without losing gentleness towards those who obstruct or abuse you. It’s as great a weakness to be angry with them as it is to abandon your plan of action and give up through fear.”

Gentleness roots us in what matters. It keeps us grounded there. And it understands that it cannot be derailed by people who are threatened by it. Other people might not get it, but that’s okay. That’s not why we do it. It can’t be.

For gentleness is strength. It’s the belief in love, connection, and better. It is agile and bending, flexibly allowing us to reshape ourselves so that we are not dependent on things turning out a certain way. We are not derailed by the hurtful words, thrown at us with intention to destroy.

Anchoring in Gentleness

Anchors keep us stable when we want to remain in one place for a while. However, they can hold us in places we wouldn’t choose to be. Weights such as excessive stuff, debts, obligations, unhealthy relationships, and limiting beliefs can keep us struggling in environments and situations that are gradually chipping away at our souls.

Our mindsets and habits can also act as anchors, holding us back from exploring our creative potential. We can find ourselves stuck when we drop these anchors without intention or awareness.

Gentleness is a strength that helps us release these anchors. We can unhook them from the ocean floor by holding them with a firm back and soft front. It’s like cutting the slack on a seatbelt – it needs a smooth and gentle rhythm to release. Instead of forcing things, we need to bring them back gently and release them at the pace they need to go.

The Story I am Making Up

Another way gentleness builds strength is in the stories we tell ourselves about how things are.

In Rising Strong, Brené Brown shares the story of a heated exchange with her husband, which, it turns out, was anchored in a misunderstanding. She assumed he was being deliberately obnoxious and dismissive, to which she responded with fury and fear. It turned out he was having a panic attack.

This led to her now famous prompt to use whenever you feel a sense of frustration or stress…

“The story I am making up right now is…”

This prompts responsibility inward, seeking evidence-based conclusions and acknowledging the potential for misinterpretation. It fosters vulnerability when articulated to the other person. It presents feelings or thoughts to instigate a conversation rather than an accusation. This firm-back-soft-front gentleness fosters conditions for mutual understanding and prevents molehills from becoming mountains.

Petition For Presence: Just Be Here With Me

This powerful poem speaks to me of the strength of gentleness. Unforced, in anticipation, without entitlement. Full of expectant knowing and flow. A request, not a demand. An invitation, not an injunction.