A human life is extremely fragile. Have you ever noticed how almost everything in our environment is “tougher” than we are? Why, just this morning I bumped into the handle on the refrigerator and generated a small black, ugly bruise on my forearm. Please don’t ask me what I was doing in order to bump into the refrigerator! But having done so, I was reminded how important being gentle is.
We just concluded a difficult, tense mid-term election. I am now calling for us, as Americans, to be gentle with each other…no matter how we voted! Now more than ever, we need to practice gentleness with ourselves, with our friends and relatives and with our fellow Americans. Here’s why.
Our skin breaks or cuts easily. We bleed so readily. And with very little effort on their part, inanimate objects can maim our bodies, and even snuff out our life. A small projectile, often called a bullet, traveling at a relatively slow speed, is enough to penetrate our skin, flesh and bone. A bigger projectile commonly referred to as the automobile, with the help of people called drivers, kills over 53,000 of us every year in the United States alone.
Not only do solid, hard objects hurt us, our environment is filled with more subtle powers, which are toxic to our well-being. Chemicals in the air, or inhaled by choice, inflame our lungs. Toxins in the water sap our health and kill our sources of food. Little creatures, named bacteria and viruses, which we cannot see without the help of a microscope, devastate our bodies, deplete our health and murder us and our relatives.
The greatest source of danger to our human lives is however, other humans. Our human species is unique in its ability to attack, decimate and destroy itself. It requires little effort for us to kill ourselves or others. It is not the ease with which our lives are erased however, which results in so much human destruction. It is our own aggression, powerfully equipped with the tools and technology of death, coupled with the fragility of human life itself. Throw into this crucible a learned sense of worthlessness about individual human life, and you have an enormously dangerous mixture.
The antidote for such a mixture would seem to be “gentleness.” Gentleness is a way of functioning, a style, a manner of being. It is probably learned beginning in the womb. It is certainly developed from birth and throughout life. Starting with the manner in which the parent feeds the child, gentleness begins. Gentleness evolves by the way in which children experience others behaving toward them. As children observe and imitate the actions of others, gentleness grows or withers. How we see others responding to threat, handling their fears, using their anger, and protecting themselves from pain; each contributes to, or detracts from, the blossoming of gentleness.
Gentleness is probably rooted in our genetic make-up. If it were not so, we would not be gentle with our offspring. I am always impressed with the gentleness of a lion as she carries her cub between her big, sharp teeth.
Gentleness is a manner of communication. It may express thoughts and feelings like: caring, acceptance, security, guidance, support, nurturing and love. Even powerful feelings of anger, fear and sadness can be expressed with gentleness. Gentleness is not weakness, it is not submission or “being a wimp”. Gentleness may not be as exciting to watch on television, nor sell many ads, nor attract a lot of attention, but it may save human life on the planet. For gentleness is born of courage, self-confidence, inner security and a sense of well-being. It is the most appropriate way to relate to the precious fragility of Life.
Gentleness can express inner strength, self-awareness and secure personal power. If you feel secure and confident within, you can afford to be gentle with yourself, others and all creatures animate and inanimate. It expresses Albert Schweitzer’s philosophy of ‘reverence for Life.’ If you practice gentleness in your life, you can become a living part of your environment. You belong to Life with all its fragility. Be gentle with it and you might enjoy being alive a whole lot more…regardless of the election outcome(s).