Gentle Does It.

I heard the angry, belligerent screams. We all did. They reverberated off racks of used merchandise, interrupting the quiet perusings of women searching for a treasure among the cast off clothing and second-hand housewares. The tawny-haired two year old struggling in the cart might have been IN Goodwill, but he certainly wasn't going to be caught spreading any. 

I could see the screamer's mother, aging decades by the moment as she had likely found that designer dress for $5.50 in her size and was unwilling to sacrifice it by giving into the demands of the tiny toddler terror in her cart. The look of "I just need to get the hell outta here (but not before I snag this DKNY dress)" was all over her face. It was a look countless shoppers have seen on my own mug throughout these past eight years. 

Closer to my cart was a woman who I overheard talking to her teenage daughter across the rack of woman's shirts:

"You NEVER acted like that...and let me tell you, I wouldn't have LET you".

Her self-righteous declaration set my blood to boiling. I wanted to march right up to her and say, "Well, aren't you so lucky that you've never had to deal with the utterly draining, humiliating and maddening experience of having a loud, strong willed child strapped into a shopping cart. Your self-righteous proclamation is an imaginary projection of a situation you have apparently never been in. Please, please, please be gentle with this dear mama-with-the-screaming-child across the store. Calm down there, old girl. Gentle does it".

She was so unlike the woman in Target just two years ago, when I was fleeing for my life with three children who were behaving as if they had never seen a day of loving discipline in their short little lives. She was right ahead of me and when she felt-or saw-me coming, she turned to me and quietly said, "I know this is stressful, but it does get better. Just hold on". 

Her words of empathy and kindness were a salve to my frayed-into-oblivion nerves. She said no more than those two sentences, yet her acknowledgement of me and my stress turned my morning around. I will never forget her. The stranger in Target was, truly, a gentle woman.


Gentleness. It is kindly, amiable, not severe, rough, or violent; mild. In a world of harsh judgements and lightening-speed proclamations, a gentle approach soothes even as it surprises. 

Henri Nouwen wrote: 

Gentle is the one who does "not break the crushed reed, or snuff the faltering wick" (Matthew 12:20). Gentle is the one who is attentive to the strengths and weaknesses of the other and enjoys being together more than accomplishing something. A gentle person treads lightly, listens carefully, looks tenderly, and touches with reverence. A gentle person knows that true growth requires nurture, not force. Let's dress ourselves with gentleness. In our tough and often unbending world our gentleness can be a vivid reminder of the presence of God among us.

The words of the world are harsh and hasty. The language of the religious is loud and desperate to be right. The comments that come under the breath from those who have never been dealt a particular hand are short-sighted, offering the dull pain of judgment.

Gentleness is a rare commodity. It is a fruit of the spirit that takes grace and grit to extend. And as Nouwen wrote, is a vivid reminder to the presence of God among us.

We may not know the struggle of the girl who struggles with her sexual orientation, but we can be gentle towards her.

We may not understand the private pain of the parents who's child is haunted by depression or trauma, but we can be gentle towards them.

We may not have the full picture painted for us of the woman who walks into an abortion clinic because she feels she has no other choice, but we can be gentle to her.

We may not have had children who threw temper tantrums in public, but we can be gentle to the mama who does. 

We are not instructed to understand. We are not called to sit in the seat of the judge. We are not even asked to be jurors.

Instead, we are given the opportunity to live lives full of fruit that is produced from a Source that is purer than we. 

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  Against such things there is no law." - Galatians 5: 22 (NIV)


Elizabeth Marie said…
Love your, love, love it. You need to write a book. about???... whatever...because I love the way you write!
So well written and a great encouragement to be kind to everyone each day.
debi said…
Loved this post, no surprise :-)


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