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On Gentleness

Updated on October 3, 2012
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In the version of the “I Ching” that I use, gentleness is sometimes listed at the end of a list of positive attributes, for example, patience, equanimity, modesty, innocence, acceptance and gentleness. In this list, gentleness stands out. Although one can actively pursue patience, equanimity, modesty, innocence and acceptance, I think that gentleness has the greatest potential for active pursuit.

What does gentleness mean? It means to act with kindness, to keep an amiable demeanor, and to speak and act softly. Whereas patience, equanimity, modesty, innocence and acceptance are mostly internal pursuits, gentleness is primarily an external interaction. The latter is, however, a product or result of the former. If one practices patience, equanimity, modesty, innocence and acceptance the result will inevitably be actions that are gentle.

How does one’s gentleness affect the outside world? Gentleness is caring mindfulness, and it is contagious. To be gentle, one must be aware of whether or not they are being gentle. To project gentleness, one must care for the perceptions of others, that they should perceive gentleness. To perceive gentleness is to experience caring. Experiencing caring, how can one not also care?

To be gentle in our daily affairs means to be aware of ourselves and others, to speak with deference (as an equal) and to be prepared always to see the other’s point of view. Gentleness means never forcing an issue, never insisting on your own way, and never manipulating or tricking others. Respect is a key element of gentleness.

Does gentleness mean being weak or saying ‘yes’ to experiences you do not want? No, it does not. Just as seven-animal Kung Fu is quite effective despite being a style that is gentle to the body, one can be both gentle and strong. Also, one does not need to be angry to say ‘no.’ One can usually refuse unwanted experiences gently, showing respect to whomever is offering the experience and refraining from judgment. Even if one must physically defend themselves, it is possible to do so gently, without anger.

Empathy can facilitate gentleness. All humans have in common feelings of isolation, helplessness, fear, pain, anger, sadness and despair. All suffer from regret. All succumb to of expectation. When we recognize our commonality with others, gentleness only makes sense.

It is impossible for most of us to practice gentleness all the time. But to the extent that we can practice gentleness we make the world more peaceful, both for ourselves and for others.

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    • Tom Rubenoff profile image
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      Tom Rubenoff 3 years ago from United States

      Chance, if chance you call it

      Calls the tune the minstrels play

      That summons the dancers to the floor

      And chance may have, so they say

      Bent the roads that brought

      The dancers to the door

      Chance, too, may spin the dance

      That spun us as we danced with others

      Wheeling in random orbits

      By chance intersecting

      And we, unsuspecting

      Suddenly met.

      Thank you, Poetlorraine.

    • profile image

      Poetlorraine 3 years ago

      How did I stumble across your work again...... Write some poetry for your muse

    • Tom Rubenoff profile image
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      Tom Rubenoff 4 years ago from United States

      Thank you, Brenda!

    • Brenda L Scully profile image

      Brenda Lorraine Scully 4 years ago from Ireland

      I once heard empathy as described as. Your pain in my heart.......

      Gentleness, ah I even love the word.........

      Lovely hub, love the pictures too

    • Tom Rubenoff profile image
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      Tom Rubenoff 4 years ago from United States

      Thank you, To Start Again :)

    • To Start Again profile image

      Selina Kyle 4 years ago

      Beautiful, Tom. If only the whole world could learn to pursue gentleness and embrace it :)

    • bettybarnesb profile image

      bettybarnesb 4 years ago from Bartlett, TN

      Thanks Tom! There can be no greater gift.

      be blessed....

    • Tom Rubenoff profile image
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      Tom Rubenoff 4 years ago from United States

      Thank you, Betty. As the winter holidays approach here in the United States, I wish everyone a gentle holiday season.

    • bettybarnesb profile image

      bettybarnesb 4 years ago from Bartlett, TN

      Hey Tom! I love this. It was written with genleness. You were able to enter into the softness of the picture of the "rose." That's not easy to do. Thanks!

      be blessed...

    • Tom Rubenoff profile image
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      Tom Rubenoff 5 years ago from United States

      Thank you.

    • teresapelka profile image

      Teresa Pelka 5 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      @ Tom Rubenoff,

      I wouldn't say I associate Tai Chi primarily with martial arts; it's balance and integrity to allow some self defense... I haven't practiced it, as I've told you; it just looks more interesting than Kung Fu.

    • Tom Rubenoff profile image
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      Tom Rubenoff 5 years ago from United States

      The great thing about Tai Chi is that as long as you can move at all, it is not too late to start. I am hoping to have time for a martial arts class soon. Thank you, Nancy!

    • alekhouse profile image

      Nancy Hinchliff 5 years ago from Essex Junction, Vermont

      Very nice Tom. You've given us a lot to think about. I love essays like this. Hope you'll be posting more. I have always wanted to study Tai Chi but never got around to it. Maybe soon. I'll be back to read this again and make more comments.

    • teresapelka profile image

      Teresa Pelka 5 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      @ Tom Rubenoff,

      Thank you for answering and debating. :-)

    • Tom Rubenoff profile image
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      Tom Rubenoff 5 years ago from United States

      Tai Chi is a wonderful martial art and fitness exercise. Thank you very much for a stimulating debate, and for adding wisdom to my humble article.

    • teresapelka profile image

      Teresa Pelka 5 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      @Tom Rubenoff

      I'll remain interetsed in tai chi, also as a self-defense behavior. I never really practiced it, I want to learn it.

      I'm fine comparing philosophies.

    • Tom Rubenoff profile image
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      Tom Rubenoff 5 years ago from United States

      Thank you for your comment. Please do continue.

    • teresapelka profile image

      Teresa Pelka 5 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      Empathy would take someone's being sad, you say:

      "What I mean to say is that most people know what it is like to feel negative feelings, so when we see one, it is not an alien thing to us and we can empathize..."

      I'd be clearer on compassion in the context.

      Here's Webster for EMPATHY:

      1 : the imaginative projection of a subjective state into an object so that the object appears to be infused with it

      2 : the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner also : the capacity for this

      Here's Webster for COMPASSION:

      sympathetic consciousness of others' distress together with a desire to alleviate it

      synonyms see PITY

      I hope you wouldn't go into imaginative projections to endow another with your pity... ;)

      I'm not clear on how the 'Ruby' refers - I don't see any commenter with such a name or nick.

    • Tom Rubenoff profile image
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      Tom Rubenoff 5 years ago from United States

      Empathy is the sharing and understanding of feelings. To be receptive to someone's sadness need not make one sad. I feel happy when I feel I have eased or attempted to ease someone's burden, Teresa.

      Thank you, Ruby!

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Fuller 5 years ago from Southern Illinois

      Gentleness, even the word has a calming effect. Beautiful expressive hub..Thank you..

    • teresapelka profile image

      Teresa Pelka 5 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      Just curious - would one's being happy deprive him or her of this empathic potential you write about?

      Why should those be 'negative' feelings to make you natural, feel 'not an alien thing'?

    • Tom Rubenoff profile image
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      Tom Rubenoff 5 years ago from United States

      Perhaps it is overstepping my bounds to say "all humans," Teresa. Or perhaps my writing is unclear. What I mean to say is that most people know what it is like to feel negative feelings, so when we see one, it is not an alien thing to us and we can empathize with it rather than defending ourselves from it. That is not to say we have to feel negative feelings on behalf of others, but that knowing what these feelings are, we can have compassion for those who are experiencing them.

      Thanks, Feline, I believe that if one behaves kindly and gently the world in their immediate vicinity becomes a kinder and gentler place. I wrote about gentleness because it struck me as something different in a list of otherwise seemingly similar terms. It is as if the I Ching - a book that often prescribes non-action - is saying that if one must act, do so gently.

    • profile image

      Feline Prophet 5 years ago

      Strangely, gentleness is not a quality that most of us actively seek...and yet, if we were gentle beings, a lot of other good things would naturally follow.

    • teresapelka profile image

      Teresa Pelka 5 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      Well, let us then say, the prospect is oversimplified to me.

      Humans react individually and have individual feelings. Devising a common scope, feelings to be felt the same by many, might only boil down to vegetative response - and this could be only a sensory experience.

      More, for the feelings you quote, the sensory experience would be unpleasant: isolation, helplessness, fear, pain, anger, sadness, despair, and regret.

      Has philosophy become a path of infliction... ? ;)

      An expectation to make one 'succumb' wouldn't look promising, either.

      And well, I might not regret many things in my life, still I never said I'd be Edith Piaf - I said she sang memorably, not that I would have 'evolved past regret'.

    • Tom Rubenoff profile image
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      Tom Rubenoff 5 years ago from United States

      Thank you for your comment. Interesting your Piaf reference. Perhaps I might counter-quote Iriving Berlin? :)

      Many mistake 'simple' for 'simplistic.'

      I do congratulate you on having evolved past regret.

    • teresapelka profile image

      Teresa Pelka 5 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      Edith Piaf sang memorably about not regretting.

      You write - All humans have in common the feelings of isolation, helplessness, fear, pain, anger, sadness, and despair. All suffer from regret. All succumb to expectation.

      The prospect is not entertaining and actually simplistic. Humans may have the knee jerk in common, but there are exceptions.

      Human feelings are individual. More, life on earth is not much of a bank account - caring does not warrant care in return.