The Tough work of Gentle
I’m still waking up in an uncertain, fast-spinning world. A few days ago, the planet’s latest spin landed squarely on my birth date. And though the world’s whims often feel well beyond my control, I want to declare that there will always be things I still have a say in, personal decisions I can choose, manage and be proud of making. Individual actions help change the world. At least that’s what I said to myself when I awoke to one more year behind me. “So, what might I concentrate on for my next 365?” I ask myself as I head to the kitchen. I like the front of my refrigerator. I’ve peppered that space with pictures and words that feed my soul. And, thankfully, today I looked at the door before opening it. There was Gandhi, his words patiently affixed, just waiting for me to wake to them again: In all things, . . . “be truthful, gentle, fearless.” I’m guessing that most of us have already decided what “truthful” and “fearless” mean to us as we daily navigate our lives. My experience taught me those two words sit on a pretty complex continuum spanning our personal thoughts, emotions and decisions. I’ve watched truthful come from deep within wells of long-held beliefs, as well as listened to it skirt along situational boundaries that come and go. I’ve come across fearless in shouting matches about contrary beliefs, as well encountered it as a profound understanding that, no matter the cost, some things must be held sacred. But it’s the “gentle” that sits squarely between truth and fearlessness that I want to talk about here. Being gentle is tough . . . because of where it begins and what it intends. Gentle has its beginning in a heart-inspired space, intending us to use more than self-love to deal with life’s truths. Gentle is what empowers Gandhi’s 3-word phrase to actually work. It is the How of the message. How do I express my truth so it can be fully heard? How do I express my fearlessness so it can stimulate something positive? I don’t believe Gandhi randomly placed gentle in the middle of his famous triad. I think he thought we’d need continual reminding that in the midst of courage we must also use gentle’s compassion – placing ourselves in the space of another’s truth through empathy, its generosity – mindfully considering other truths besides our own, and its kindly behavior in the face of differences. So here’s my birthday message to me: continue to state what you know, in your mind, heart and soul, to be truthful. Be fearless in speaking an authentic truth, regardless of its popularity. But always remember that if you want to actually be heard, be considered seriously and with some good will by others, speak with gentle honesty. Grace be with you all as the spinning, busy world makes its way toward another year.