I aspire to be gentle. I’m also one of those guys who gets hyped at the idea of manhood. But not the macho idea of manhood. Something greater. A lot of my ideas on the subject of authentic manhood come from John Eldridge’s Wild at Heart.
But I think being gentle has a lot of negative connotations, that cause men, and women, to think that it is a sign of weakness. The word gentle often conjures up definitions like “sensitive,” “moderate,” “timid,” or “soft.” But I believe there is a lot more to the concept.
Think about what kind of words are paired with gentle: “Gentle Giant,” Gentleman, Gentle Ben. Gentle is paired with things that are considered strong or dangerous. When you explain to a child how to treat a baby, you tell them to be gentle, because if they exert their full force they will hurt the baby. But why? Here is my definition of gentleness:
Gentleness is strength restrained.
Anyone can be destructive or hurtful. To be honest, that sort of behavior may make us feel powerful. But even toddlers can be destructive. No one hurts me as much as my 4 year old daughter. Not because she is strong, but because she lacks control. The immature let loose their anger because it is the only way they think their impact will be felt. Similarly, bullies and cowards abuse their strength to cover their fear that they are not good enough.
However, it is the gentle, who are truly strong. They do not need to put on a show. They may have the power to control, take or destroy, yet do not. The gentle act in love, often choosing to stand, rather than run or fight, knowing that they can outlast their challenges. Gentleness can meet hurting people in the midst of their distress, without the overwhelming need to remove the tension before it has done its work. Gentleness says “it is ok,” with the strength and certainty to back it up.
I want to be that kind of gentle.