UpBeat Spiritual Living: Gentleness is a Choice
© 2012 Kebba Buckley Button. World Rights Reserved
I have been thinking a lot about gentleness, lately. I got into a discussion with Susan Wilson, recently, over gentleness in different areas of livingness, including gentleness with ourselves. We found ourselves agreeing that our edges are sharper when we are less sure. So being more sure can help us be more gentle, within self and with others. And isn’t gentleness, in and of itself, both pleasant and spiritual?
Here is Susan’s piece, Gentleness is a Choice:
Some people have been asking what I mean by being a ‘softer, gentler presence on Earth’. That’s a good question. I’m glad you asked.
What it is not: being in any way a sap, a wimp, a doormat, someone whose grip on reality is tenuous at best, some sort of Pollyanna who refuses to see all but the sunniest, happiest, lightest aspects of life, or someone who find life so threatening and daunting that she hides in a cupboard all day and only emerges when hungry or bored.
There are three aspects to living as a ’soft, gentle presence’ that call to me:
- being a gentle presence in my dealings with family, friends, and all who cross my path as I travel through my day
- having a less impactful effect on the community, the landscape, the life around me
- making better choices about how I fill my spirit: in reading, listening, watching, touching and tasting – all the sensory experiences which enrich rather than drain
At the root of all of this is respect: respect for others, respect for the planet, and respect for myself.
Because it all starts with self-respect. If we don’t respect ourselves, we’re not going to care much about what happens either in our own life or in the lives of others. ‘Love your neighbour as you love yourself.’ It’s not ‘love your neighbour instead of yourself.’
Sometimes that’s a hard lesson to learn. And especially so if you’ve been nurtured in a cold, harsh environment – or even if you’ve not. Sometimes the cruellest, harshest of worlds is the one where children are left to their own devices, with no attention, no nurturing, no guidance. They may not have been starved of ‘things’ – toys, games, electronic playmates – but their role models have been imaginary, transient and quiet often made of plastic!
It takes a strong character to rise above such circumstances. It’s no wonder we grow up to be damaged individuals, with baggage that inhibits our ability to make sound choices and rational decisions, and impede the invitation to tread a gentle path.
It’s not impossible, though. While the urge for self-preservation is undoubtedly strong, and thank God for it, it doesn’t need to be aggressive or confrontational. You can stand your ground from a place of peace and respect, and can often make more of an impact by doing so – a soft one, though.
Think of it: your bank has made a mistake leaving you short of money this month. You ring them up, and your first instinct is to give them a piece of your mind! Inefficient, untrained, probably aliens from the planet Mars dealing with your cheques and direct debits, you think. Fortunately, by the time you weave your way through the automated answering service (and isn’t that a contradiction in terms), your temper has mellowed a little and you find you can be civil when you do finally hear a human voice at the other end of the phone. Don’t you find that you get further with them if you treat them respectfully, with a soft word and an unthreatening manner? They’re more willing to help sort out your problem than if you come at them like a charging bull, intent on ripping their credibility to pieces until any help they may have been disposed to offer you now lies in a thousand pieces at your feet.
It may feel good to vent, but it doesn’t get us very far.
Fortunately, the instinct to help is as strong as that of self-preservation – or should be. At heart, if we see someone struggling, our first instinct is to go over and help. We’re built to live in community, to nurture relationships and forge partnerships with each other. If only we did that more often, rather than think about any imagined – and imaginary – repercussions: they might push me away; they might need more than I can give; they might be high on drugs; what if I make the situation worse…
Forget all that. Just go and help.
If more of us do that, more often, then slowly we’re going to shape a softer, gentler life for ourselves and our world. I know that’s what I want.
What do you want?
Read more of Susan Wilson’s thoughts at: http://ripplespillers.com/gentleness-is-a-choice/ . Susan is a spiritual lifestyle writer from Fyfe, in Scotland.
● Rev. Kebba Buckley Button is the author of the 2012 book, Peace Within: Your Peaceful Inner Core.
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