Note: this is the first post in the “Manly Power” series.
was having lunch with a friend last year, and we started talking about gentleness. If you have enough conversations with me, one of them will likely become blog fodder. My lunchmate thought gentleness was a weak softness, and I disagreed, then and still. Gentleness is a choice. Gentleness is exercising great restraint and control. Gentleness is exhibiting peace and grace when capable of great brutality. Gentleness is a cage fighter holding a baby. After all, the literal meaning of “jiu jitsu” is “the gentle art”, but it sure as heck doesn’t feel gentle when you’re getting choked with your own arm.
Being gentle, among men, is not a prized quality, even among those who would call themselves gentlemen. For me, gentleness and courage are dovetailed, complimentary opposites, much like grace and mercy. As such gentleness is, in the Christian tradition, one of the “Fruits of the Spirit”. Why is this? Why is gentle associated with weakness, and therefore unmanliness? Gentle doesn’t mean delicate, weak, indecisive. Gentleness is not reserved for giggling and blushing ladies in petticoats, waving kerchiefs at potential well-born courters from carriage windows. Some of my favorite people, real and fictional (and some not even people) are markedly gentle. Jesus, Mufasa, Atticus Finch, Theodore Roosevelt, Aslan, Louis Pasteur, St. Francis of Assisi, Batman, Dr. Martin Luther King, Forrest Gump, and Rocky Balboa are all masterful wielders of gentleness. They are not at all softies, weaklings, cowards, responsibility-shirkers (looking at you, Simba) or in any other way unmanly, except of course, the two fictional lions on the list, but even they are not rendered unlionly by their gentleness. They are still heavily muscled and fanged, tactical, regal, and persistent.
I dare you to call Atticus a sissy. He’s been called worse, he won’t be hurt, but he will disagree.
Aside: how awesome would it be if the bro speak maxim “Man up” came to mean “be gentle”?
I hope I am able to keep perspective, and discern when I need to be gentle. I hope I do not feel pressured to be overbearing and unnecessarily forceful in my personal and professional relationships.
What do you think about men and gentleness? How did you come across those ideas?