Gentleness is not only a fruit of the Spirit, but it is also the state of possessing a kind, amiable, mild-tempered nature. When expressing gentleness, one judges conscience by reason, rather than by passion. A gentle person prudently forms judgments logically, rather than impulsively. To express gentleness, we must articulate our points in a respectful, gentle tone. We must use our reason to assess actions, while at the same time holding our emotions at bay. By applying all of these attributes, we become more Christ-like.
True gentleness cannot be professed externally without possessing the internal virtue, for to do so would be hypocritical. Saint Francis de Sales wisely states in his book, Philothea or An Introduction to a Devout Life:
So we must not only use gentle words towards our neighbors, but must be filled with gentleness, that is, our very inmost soul. And we must not be satisfied with the aromatic fragrance of honey, that is, with agreeable and courteous dealings towards our neighbors, but we must have the milk of charity towards our own household, and not resemble those who are angelic abroad and devils at home (p. 147).
Saint Francis is telling us that this prized virtue starts with each of us, and it starts in the home. If we cannot express gentleness with ourselves and our own family, how can we be sincerely gentle with our neighbors and colleagues? Also, if we allow our emotions to override our reason, it will be difficult to master this virtue.
Gentleness vs. the “Ladder of Inference”
Have you ever climbed the “ladder of inference” in dealing with others? Do you form judgments totally based upon emotion, without having all of the facts? Only to learn that the judgment formed AND voiced by you was aggressive in nature, rather than gentle? I am guilty as charged! This is one of my main faults that I am working to change. In studying gentleness, I now realize that I need to embrace and practice it more fervently.
I am learning that it is better to be kind than to always be right. Drawing on reason, rather than emotion has been beneficial. By relying on reason, more prudent decisions result. Finally, it all comes down to “tone.” By changing my tone, by being more respectful, I find that gentleness is blossoming within me.