Forceful yet gentle

By: Fr. Roy Cimagala

IN our discussions and exchanges, especially when we have to sort out differences and settle conflicts, it always pays to be gentle in our ways even as we like to be forceful in advancing our views. Good manners always pay.

It should never be set aside even if the other parties do not practice it. That would be their problem, not ours. No matter how right one thinks he is in his views or how wrong the others are in theirs, we have no reason to bully others to submit to our opinions, nor to resort to ironies, sarcasm, personal attacks, character assassinations, bitter zeal, etc.

Gentleness does not take away the forcefulness of our arguments. It, in fact, would make our views clearer and more attractive. It would foster a sober, deeper and more meaningful dialogue.

Gentleness is not the contrast of forcefulness. Both can get together quite well. With gentleness, the pursuit of the truth, for what is fair and just, would be greatly facilitated. And unity and charity would be maintained even if the differences remain. Friendship and good relations are not destroyed. Bluntly said, gentleness is always the winner’s quality, not the loser’s.

Gentleness enables us to listen more and better, to be more keenly discerning of the subtle nuances of the discussion, and thus to react properly. It facilitates a better understanding of the issues at hand and of the persons involved.

It helps us to keep a more global picture and perspective of things such that we would be restrained to give merely impulsive, short-sighted responses. Yes, it effectively checks on our tendency to fall into Pavlovian reactions, especially when we feel provoked and threatened.

It lends itself to better thinking and judgments, as well as to better tact, prudence and discretion. Rash judgments and a loose grasp of the issues would be avoided. With it, the tongue, emotions and passions are better controlled and supervised. It makes the discussions, no matter how conflictive, amenable, and not immediately brought to a dead-end, which is what usually happens when the exchanges get too hot for comfort.

Besides, Christ highlighted this quality of gentleness when he made it one of the beatitudes by saying that “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” (Mt 5,5) It’s an intriguing assertion, given the usual bias we have about meekness. But Christ is very clear about what meekness can bring about. With it, we shall inherit the earth!

We should have no doubt about the effectiveness and the many advantages we can get from being gentle and meek in our discussions and exchanges. Yes, we may have to bear certain inconveniences that gentleness and meekness can occasion in the short run, but to be sure, in the long run, it assures us of victory.

We really need to learn and develop this virtue. And the given the temper of the times when we are pressured always to be assertive and dominating if we want to get ahead, we really would need some stronger motive and significant effort to learn to be gentle and meek.

We can always start by making an effort to think first before we speak, or to keep the tone of our voice or of our writing warm and friendly always, to develop a good sense of timing as to when to speak and when to keep quiet at least for a while, etc.

We need to develop the allied virtues of patience and temperance, simplicity and humility. We have to instill in ourselves that attitude spelled out one time by St. Paul when he said: “Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves.” (Phil 2,3)

In other words, we have to aim at serving the common good always, not just our own interest. We always need to consider the interest of the others.