The Strength To Be Gentle

GENTLENESS: Showing consideration and personal concern for others.

Have you ever wondered why we seem so fearful of the perception of gentleness?


Our culture worships those who succeed, but we’re stuck with a scarcity model of success. Success means winning, and that means everyone else has to lose.

This model allows only three options:

    * Play and win—you’re a winner
    * Play and lose–you’re a loser.
    * Refuse to play—you’re a coward, but you pretend the game isn’t important.

Winners are celebrities. Losers are, well, losers. And cowards are worse than losers. There’s not much room for gentleness within a scarcity model.

Winners are tough. They intimidate and control through anger and power. Winners fight and impose their will on losers; they shout, fight, and do whatever it takes.

And winners must insure that everyone knows they’re winners. It’s not enough to be rich or beautiful or smart; you have to publicize your success. You have to make sure the losers know their place.

In the scarcity model, gentle is for sissies. Gentle implies vulnerable, weak, and incapable. Gentle means you can’t stand up for yourself and you get pushed around. Gentle is for the cowards, those who fear the battle.


Despite the preponderance of cultural metaphors, life isn’t a football season in which there’s a single champion. Success isn’t scarce; it’s abundant.

In an abundance model, you don’t need to crush the opposition. There’s plenty of opportunity, and my success doesn’t mean someone else’s failure. There are lots of chances to help each other. The list of options changes.

    * Succeed to the level dictated by your talent, creativity, ingenuity, and hard work.
    * Build relationships and use your talent, creativity, ingenuity, and hard work to help others succeed—and invite them to do the same for you.

This isn’t a forced-choice situation, either. In fact, it’s likely that those who employ both strategies do best.

An abundance mentality encourages the development of authentic strength and toughness AND gentleness. Each achievement enhances your sense of personal power and self-confidence, so there’s less need to impress others with false bravado. As you build your own inner security, you’re also creating strong relationships that automatically foster mutual consideration and concern.


Some would claim that abundance is an impossible utopian fantasy, that competition is inevitable, and that to compete successfully you cannot show mercy to the opposition. Competition requires a certain ruthlessness that automatically precludes gentleness.

I’ve learned that this version of toughness is really a mask, an imitation of authentic strength. Bullies are cruel because they’re fundamentally insecure, and those who flaunt success are compensating for inner fear and loneliness. Only the weak feel the need to continually demonstrate their strength.

Shouting, profanity, and angry rhetoric conceal uncertainty and lack of knowledge or ability. They’re a cheap method of attracting attention. Confident, strong people don’t need manufactured attention, because others naturally gravitate to them. They don’t need to intimidate, and they don’t need others to validate their accomplishments.

Gentleness is not weakness. Gentleness requires courage, self-assurance, and inner security. I hope you and I find the strength to be truly gentle with ourselves and others.

    Gentleness shouldn’t be confused with weakness: cowards are submissive because they lack the resources to be anything else. True gentleness is a quality of the strong, those who could assert themselves but choose not to do so.

Tomorrow we’ll talk about Jesus as a model of gentle toughness and strength.

Anything else? Do you ever struggle to find the strength to be gentle?

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Copyright 2009 by Rich Dixon, All Rights Reserved. Used by permission.
Rich is an author and speaker. He is the author of:
Relentless Grace: God’s Invitation To Give Hope Another Chance
. Visit his web site

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