Of all the adjectives one could choose to describe my personality, “Gentle” would most definitely not be among even the first twenty that come to mind. I have a very tender heart, but years of burying and covering up my vulnerabilities have created a somewhat tough exterior. This happens to many of us in life. It usually takes nearly half a century of living before you start to think about yourself as not merely a physical being but a spiritual one. I am almost one year past the mid-century mark in physical years and this is certainly true for me. More than anything, I want to prioritize spiritual growth over other pursuits right now. So my “Word of the Year” for 2017 is GENTLE.
The death of a beloved classmate last summer reminded me of a guiding principle for my High School education, a quote by Francis de Sales, “Nothing is so strong as gentleness, nothing so gentle as real strength.” Weeks before Lori’s passing, several of my classmates and I were in daily contact with her via group text messaging. She reached out to us in her most frightened, vulnerable state for support as she awaited news and guidance about her recent diagnosis of breast cancer. The outpouring of “gentle strength” from my group of High School friends was, at times, mind-blowing. We walked hand in hand with Lori through her life’s most harrowing journey until it was time for her to leave her physical body. It was the most beautiful, intimate, raw experience of my adult life so far.
The courage it took for Lori to open herself up to so many friends from so long ago dismays me. I will be forever humbled and convinced that gentleness is the ultimate spiritual practice.
Everybody knows compromise is a good thing to practice in business and ultimately in life. Bending one’s will to move toward another’s best interests leads to successful relationships and a satisfying life. Nobody likes a stubborn old goat!!! Learning to practice gentleness begins with ME: embracing an open, courageous, accepting heart means I also have to be vulnerable when I don’t necessarily want to face it. Approaching a life of gentleness as a practice rather than a goal allows me to make small choices on a daily basis that ultimately lead to the value of gentleness. Before letting myself become completely angry, for instance, I try to think less of what I want from any situation or person and more about how wonderful it is the other person crossed my path. I can think about people and things this way because of gentleness – I am learning to accept what is and forget the rest. This practice leads to alot less brooding about what ought to be and frees up lots of time to just be in the moment.
So, in 2017, I will continue to joyfully pursue the practice of gentleness in my life. Earlier today, I read a beautiful reflection on gentleness, and I share it here with you as a special gift for you to take on your 2017 journey:
“It’s the hard things that break; soft things don’t break. It took me so very, very long to see it! You can waste so many years of your life trying to become something hard in order not to break; but it’s the soft things that can’t break! The hard things are the ones that shatter into a million pieces.” C. JoyBell C.
HAPPY NEW YEAR and may you joyfully experience the softness of a bigger, fuller, gentler life of authenticity this year!!!!