As we continue on our journey to build and strengthen our character, I wanted to write about a virtue that gets little mention in today’s “loud and proud” environment. When we call roll for those who have delivered lasting, positive impact in our world, in our communities, and in our homes, there is a common virtue among them that is tough to find in the intensity of our world today.
The quality of gentleness, or “strength under control” as the more practical, relevant definition, continues to be an effective behavioral anchor for us in dealing with relationships in the complexity of life today.
I am confident that if I polled all the readers of this blog, we could all give a few solid testimonies about when we “lost it” in a relatively intense or even seemingly routine interaction with a family member, coworker, or friend. We occasionally blame our response on the hectic commute across the town, the stressful day at work, the loss of the big game, the weather etc. However, we all know we fell short in demonstrating strength under control and we most likely took a big withdrawal from the proverbial “relationship bank account” and needed to work extra hard making deposits into the future if we wanted to repair the relationship.
Maintaining gentleness in today’s world is not easy. The real-life situations of dealing with an unruly child while hustling to get ready for work, an irate customer call just as “normal business hours” have passed and your daycare is closing, the spouse that just seems oblivious to the situation you are struggling to get through, or the aging parent who does not realize her limitations are all situations that put our gentleness to the test. It is not easy to maintain strength under control, but it is worth the effort.
There are several positive outcomes that we can all expect by demonstrating a greater degree of gentleness or strength under control in our interactions with others:
(1) Gentleness has been shown over time, either through time-tested philosophers or academic research, to be the more effective method in strengthening relationships and sustaining positive behavioral change compared to the typical “loud, proud, and loss of control” technique we all so quickly adapt.
(2) We will quickly replace the regretful thought of “oh, I should not have acted that way” with the cherished memory that we did the harder right, rather than the easier wrong and more times than not, maintained a productive connection to continue the relationship another day.
(3) Our example will be “watched” by those around us and whether we ever see it or not, others will be positively impacted by our actions.
One final note of truth from the late Leo Buscaglia, PhD: I am not sure if you remember Leo, but he was “Dr. Love” in the 70s & 80s who was famous for his sold-out “Love 1A” class at the University of Southern California. His PBS Specials (which are on YouTube for those interested) were an earlier and less rehearsed version of modern day TED Talks for healthy relationships. Leo Buscaglia, in describing a relevant truth of those exhibiting the virtue of gentleness said, “Only the weak are cruel. Gentleness can only be expected from the strong.”
We should all strive to be strong and exhibit gentleness. As a result, we will continue to make steady progress on building and strengthening our character and Character Creates Opportunity® for us to have positive, lasting impact in our relationships.