A long while ago, a friend sent me a quote and its poignancy has sunk deep into the fibers of my brain and heart.
“It’s like being in love: giving somebody the power to hurt you and trusting (or hoping) they won’t.”
Marina Abramović, Rest Energy
When I speak of (and write about) love in gentleness, I don’t mean a lamb-meek, soft-as-kittens, never-raises-my-voice kind of gentleness. What I mean by gentleness is the recognition of humanity in ourselves, our need for grace and mercy, and the pouring out of what we so deeply need onto others, recognizing that they, too, share this flawed, fallible thing called humanity. Gentleness is our choice to be for and respond to others what and how we ourselves have often most needed. If love is indeed giving someone the means and power to destroy you and trusting them not to do so, then gentleness is giving to others what we so desire for ourselves: grace, mercy, and understanding.
Gentleness has also been defined as power under control. We all bear extraordinary power in the lives of others–power to heal or to harm, power to give life or to take it away–and gentleness is choosing the merciful road, to heal and to give life with our words and actions. Gentleness is choosing to bring that power under control, to use it to do good to those into whose lives we act, speak, and interact. As Jennifer Dukes Lee wrote: “Our words always fold into the souls of other human beings. That is no small thing.” How many of us think of or remember that? Of how far or deeply our words can go into the souls of others? Our words, our reactions, and our responses can often make all the difference in and to someone’s heart. An ungentle word, a rash response, these things can sometimes do irrevocable and lasting damage, even though it takes less than a moment to happen and be over.
Gentleness cradles the trust that someone has placed in us, holds it softly and lovingly, recognizing their humanity calling out, and responds with the understanding of our own humanity and fallibility. Gentleness sees what we have needed and responds by being that person for someone else. Our power is put to the good of another’s soul.
Together, we can show gentleness, we can be the person that we have needed for someone else. We can bring the power we have, wrap it in love, and speak life to someone else who may be standing in the same hard place(s) where we have stood.