A Story of Gentleness

During the storm and struggles of last week, I received this email from Chris Shea, a talented artist and enlighted soul. Hope it ministers to you as it ministered to me and begins your weekend on a peaceful, gentle note…
     Recently I was stopped at a traffic light when I saw a homeless man struggling with his shopping cart. It was on a sloping portion of the sidewalk and he appeared to be trying to put his bedroll and a few other belongings inside, but the slope was winning and the wheels were turning and he was clearly not having a good morning.
Sitting close beside both the man and the sidewalk was a little dog, which I presumed was his. The man kept getting the bungee cord stuck on the side of the cart and he simply could not get the bedroll to behave. It appeared that his temper was rising, and it looked like there was some hollering involved, probably at the maddening situation of rolling cart and recalcitrant bedroll. Then came drizzle from the gloomy sky.
      But still sitting there watching was his little dog. No leash, no apparent urge to run off, because the man’s temper  seemed in no way directed at the dog. Dog loyalty. Nothing loves you like a dog.

     Sometimes we all need something like that little dog in our corner. Someone or something who will sit by us when our tempers flare at things like rolling carts and stubborn bungee cords or our own life-versions of them. Someone who knows that deep down we really are good people but that when gravity duels with wheels- and wins- and then it seems like the sky piles on with drizzle and gloom, we might not actually be acting like our highest self. We all need that one who knows our calmer, nicer self is just around the corner, so they stick beside us, and never once wag their finger at us and say,
     “You know what you might want to do…”
     They just sit there. Loyal to their friend. Patient with their friend.
I’m guessing the day had to get better for the man, and I fervently hope there was a nice treat for the little four legged friend who just sat there. Loyal. Patient. Well, just being a dog…
© Chris Shea, 2011
heart collage by Helen

heart collage by Helen Teague

Change Me

Perhaps gentleness means “Change Me”

Crowdsourcing Gentleness-Facebook Responses

crowdsourcing gentlenessGiven Wikipedia’s definition of crowdsourcing as an “act of outsourcing tasks, traditionally performed by an employee or contractor to a large group of people or community (a crowd), through an open call.”

I wonder…Can We Crowdsource Gentleness? Can we extend an open call for Gentleness?

Here is the question posted on my Facebook wall and some of the wise responses I received:

…been spending lots of time thinking about two separate concepts: crowdsourcing (for work) and gentleness (for my blog and upcoming talk). In the pink blender that is my mind, I wonder: Can Gentleness be Crowdsourced? Can an open call for Gentleness be extended?
Can you, wise Facebook friends help me {virtually} think this through?

Linda: I’d say, YES, Gentleness can and should be crowdsourced. We’ve had presidents who make an open call of sorts for gentleness. “Kinder/Gentler Nation.” Oprah has also done so in some form over the years. Not totally sure where you’re headed with this…but I like the train of thought!
Joyce: Yes and Yes!
Beth: there can never be too much gentleness in the world.
Karen: I think any kind of “fruit” would go good in a blender. Galatians 5:22
Jacqui:  It looks to me like you just attempted what your question asked; didn’t you?  From my understanding a “problem” or idea is given to groups of… individuals (who can be experts or perhaps just an unknown selection of the general public) and they decide the best answers/solutions and the winning group of individuals in the crowd are sometimes compensated. That being said…the expression of gentleness as a crowdsourcing question – I’d say yes, it’s possible to crowdource that one. Ideas anyone? How is gentleness best expressed? Can we teach gentleness? The list goes on for possibilities here! :-)
Donna:  love the ‘pink’ blender!!!! it would be wonderful if it could be done…
Me:  Wow! This is getting good! I appreciate your comments SO much. If I stay only in my head—whooosh, that is a neighborhood I should not cruise in very long! Would you continue to help me with this?
Karen: thank YOU Helen for giving me something to ponder today.
Jacqui: I believe that when one comes from the heart – the expression is LOVE… there is so much gentleness in Love. The focus on Love and BEing gentle has so much more power than a hard-handed (headed?) approach, which can appear (for example) as… an attempt to “control” others behavior. Therefore the expression of gentleness (I would think) would have a much more positive affect on the outcome in the long-run than the “gitter done no matter what the cost” approach. It is the essence of “playing the long game”, so to speak! :-) I believe you hit the nail on the head Helen…out of the head and coming from the heart breeds that, which one desires for the highest good. “To achieve gentleness, you need to have a great power” is an awesome statement which I might rephrase to: “When gentleness is expressed, there is a great power which comes from within”…Also, the good news is that this “power” within us is innate…it requires only (in my opinion) to be tapped and expressed with the greatest of Love! :-) ♥ As a wise man once told me…”The answers are ALWAYS soooooooooooo simple; it is in our humaness that we tend to complicate things!” – Shanu Tanya
Sue:  Wow Helen! You ARE crowdsourcing! What a great topic. I think gentleness does require great power and a strong sense of who (and whose) we are. Gentleness is possible when we are not the center of our world and when we understand on a deep level that we will never know enough about others to be in a position to judge their hearts or their motives. My own behavior should not depend on the actions of others as in just reacting to their poor behavior, rather on being who I want to be. I agree with Jacqui, gentleness is an expression of respect for the other individual – and for me too because that is the kind of world I want to live in.
While I believe there can be a ‘corporate’ call toward gentleness, ‘crowds’ are not gentle, the individuals in the crowd are. Can we teach it? Absolutely! By example first but also by instruction. The Bible is full of examples of gentleness and specifics on how to treat each other. Eph 4 is great. Of course, the examples of Gandhi and Mother Teresa come to mind but everyone knows someone they consider to be a gentle person.
Can you change others to be more gentle? Only if they are open to be changed…
Beth: just want to thank Sue & Jacqui for those incredibly beautiful words! I actually felt a peace wash over me in reading them.
Donna: I definitely think that gentleness is a strength that God gives us… something that hopefully grows in time as does our knowledge and love for Him.
Mary: So, I had to google that crowdsourcing phrase, but isn’t that what Jesus did in His Sermon on the Mount?

Echoing Jacqui’s question in this blog space, “Ideas anyone? How is gentleness best expressed? Can we teach gentleness?”

Crowdsourcing Gentleness

Saw this story in The Social Path blog in a post on examples of  crowdsourcing:

At a 1906 country fair, attendees were invited to guess the weight of a large ox. Hoping for a cash prize, about 800 people made guesses, though no one got it right.

Afterward, a statistician analyzed the written guesses and discovered something shocking: the average of all the guesses was a mere one pound away from the exact weight of the ox.

The moral? Sometimes a crowd can be smarter than any one of its members, even when they’re not actually working together.

crowdsourcing gentleness

 Given Wikipedia’s definition of crowdsourcing as an “act of outsourcing tasks, traditionally performed by an employee or contractor to a large group of people or community (a crowd), through an open call.”

I wonder…Can We Crowdsource Gentleness? Can we extend an open call for Gentleness?

Original Picture Link
(Text added)

Tomorrow: The Responses from Facebook

Day 21 Be Gentle Be Love

Day 21~Gentleness Digest~Be Gentle Be Love

gentlenesspicIn a squishy definition of the concept of  “Day” 21 in Be Gentle Be Love’s focus on Gentleness one day became a week. Here is a digest of the week’s  posts.

Day 1:  Proverbs 15:1

Day 2:  Images of Gentleness

Day 3:  Pausing for Gentleness

Day 4:  Gentleness Do This First

Day 5:  Gentleness What Does Not Work

Day 6:  Gentleness Despite Hurt-What Does Work

Thank you for your comments and thoughtful emails…toward a more gentle weekend for all of us! :)

Gentleness Despite Hurt- What Does Work

Gentleness Symbol

Picture Collage by Helen


Yesterday’s post described what does not work with Gentleness.

There are many, many, many temptations derailing gentleness. Especially when unearned blame—what Counselor Carl calls my “core issue” is hurled my way. Especially when, even when they are not blaming,  people are harsh.

But some people are harsh. It is their default response.

“When people get emotional, they become accusatory and start blaming,” G. Richard Shell, Wharton School of Business.

How can I be Gentle despite hurt? Here’s what’s working for me in my fourth decade of Gentleness workouts.

(But not obsessively.) What we resist often becomes the thing that tempts us (don’t eat the cake/don’t eat the cake/can’t believe i ate the cake). Resist with detachment or observation.


Guide thoughts of fighting back, running away, etc…back to breath. Breathe in Firmness. Take a deep breath and remember the real goal.

Sometimes, Because of Grace, this pause is enough to quell the other person’s attack. I have seen and experienced people stop in mid-tirade when I quiet myself. Sometimes pausing to breathe brings enough clarity to me and I do not reply to the email or respond to the phone call.

Sometimes, I just say “Ouch.”

Nowadays, in the quiet wake of the incident, I tell God my honest feelings about the people involved.

My friend, V and I used to do this for each other. We would call and say, “I am going to vent for 3 minutes and I want you to love me through this and then say “__________” at the end. The blanks often were filled in with “you did the right thing,” “i can’t believe so-and-so did this!” “Bravo” and other variations since our Junior High friendship days.

This approach really worked for me in my twenties and thirties.

But my focus now is a gentle response beyond venting. A better way toward gentleness, I am finding, is to vent to God. I do not leave anything out. He has the biggest shoulders and can carry everything and the hurt I feel from every person. Wearing myself out, if needed, while telling him everything…

I am worn out from my groaning. All night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears. Psalm 6:6

Love. Practice sending love to those who are abrasive. Recognize they are losing a battle of self-control. Love and pray for healing for them and healing for the place where their pain bleeds to me. I pray for my own heart to heal. I admit I struggle to pray for the other person and at the end, then ask God to bless him or her.

 “Don’t retaliate when people say unkind things about you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God wants you to do, and he will bless you for it” 1 Peter 3:9

Have you struggled also with responding with gentleness, especially when you are hurt?
Would you comment here and share? Sure would help me :)
To Read Today: What Does Gentleness Look Like?
Tomorrow: Crowdsourcing Gentleness

Day 21 Be Gentle Be Love

Gentleness: What Does Not Work

Psalm 141: 3

Thinking and writing about gentleness has been a workout almost derailed for me as I was confronted with several non-gentle episodes right in a row. It was as if a barrage of taunting wasps bombarded me.

If gentleness is a cherished authentic for me are these incidents tests of my truth?  

  1. a co-worker’s email tirade
  2. a community colleague’s greeting of “I’m mad at you” as soon as I entered a meeting
  3. another co-worker asked me a very, extremely personal question in front of a group of people, including my boss
  4. the brother of a long-ago friend still carries a misperceived grudge and greets every person but me at a restaurant
  5. cars at a party at our new next-door neighbor’s house blocked our driveway/mailbox and the postal worker complained angrily to me even after I tell him the party is next door.
  6. a threatening email arrived spoofed from an account of someone who I trusted (it  required a different level of response than the other five)

 My habit- reaction is to kick a** and take names. But after you kick a** and take names, what is left but bruised butts and long lists? 

Our Be Gentle, Be Love course content  advises, “To achieve gentleness, you need to have a great power. This must be a power that can bind a power. You need to be stronger. You must have a great strength that can manage your own strength. Furthermore, you must have a self that can control yourself, or in other words, self-control.”

My friend, Jacqui rephrases the concept this way, “When gentleness is expressed, there is a great power which comes from within.”

It takes great discipline for me not to swat the wasps of nastiness or spray them with a serum of verbal poison. And believe me, I do not need to “buy a vowel” –several words and compact phrases (and a few gestures) readily come to mind.

Some approaches I’ve tried offer zero-sum results. They have not worked for me.

1. It does not serve me well to deny that I am the recipient of abrupt unkindness. My soul does feel it and the hurt is palpable. Acknowledgement is empowering, even if I never speak a word.

2. It does not help to anesthetize the pain or blow off steam with a myriad of unhealthy distractions. (i.e. new shoes don’t help my heart)

3. It does not serve me well to attempt a “go-to-my-happy-place” escapism. When I tune others out, it is  tacit permission for them to continue.   

4. It certainly does not nurture me to try and find the grain of truth as an explanation. This was such a BIG one for me during the last eighteen months when I tried anything to quell an angry man. In the car insurance business percentages of shared damages are analyzed and figured. But hearts are not cars. Pain is pain. knots

Twisting myself into a metaphysical pretzel to reason away another’s unreasonableness is futile and disingenuous. It sets me up to be accountable for you.

And I am kinda busy these days, with, you know, me… :)

Tomorrow’s Post: Gentleness Despite Hurt– Responses that Work
Day 21 Be Gentle Be Love

Gentleness: First Do This

Maybe a good place for gentleness to begin is with being gentleness to myself.
Pausing for Gentleness is more difficult to do for others if I am not gentle with myself.

We can only give what we have.

When I received this drawing from Kristen Noelle’s blog, it became the center of my Gentleness ToDo list.

Gentleness is: “Starting to criticize yourself and giving yourself a hug instead.”

Not once or twice, but always. We can only give what we have. And often we/me has one heckofa inner critic to silence.

Geneen Roth writes so well about “The Voice” as she calls it in Women, Food & God

The biggest obstacle to any kind of transformation is the voice that tells you it is impossible. Geneen Roth

Perhaps it is time to “speak the truth in love” to ourselves. Then, perhaps, we will give  to others out of our abundance.

“Spend as much time caring for the inner you as you spend on the outer you,” says John Ortberg, When the Game is Over It All Goes Back in the Box 

And, for those, like me, who love a concrete center for an abstract idea: How, specifically, can I take care of my inner self?  How is this done?

1. Acronyms help. Perhaps remembering an acronym such as GDMJ that I saw on a button on my mom’s bulletin board (God Doesn’t Make Junk).
2. Or, read/memorize verses of value .
3. Or praying these same verses with my(your) name inserted (“Helen” has been adopted as God’s child -Eph 1:5…”Helen” has been bought with a price-1 Cor. 6:19-20)
4. Spend 5-10-up to 15 minutes a day pausing/breathing/noticing/
5. Write/type/draw/express items of gratitude. My favorite website for this is We Love Gratitude

I would love to add your ideas, too…

To Practice Today: Be Gentle to yourself. Be Gentle with yourself. Pause before you (self) criticize. Please let me know what you encounter when you do this.

To Visit Today: Please comment with your email (which will not be published),  if you would like an excerpt from the powerful chapter on our inner critic from Geneen Roth.

Day 21 Be Gentle Be Love

Tomorrow: Gentleness Despite Hurt

Pausing for Gentleness

Still parking on my fluid definition of “Day” 21 on Gentleness.
Yesterday’s post had Images of Gentleness.

Today, I wonder, what powers Gentleness?

What is the fuel that powers Gentleness?

Is Gentleness predicated on a pause? Jesus paused.
Jesus modeled gentleness in the way he paused.
He paused in the middle of swirling accusations.

Pausing in the storm

It takes great power to pause. pause collage

In the Be Gentle, Be Love course materials I read, “To achieve gentleness, you need to have a great power. This must be a power that can bind a power. You need to be stronger. You must have a great strength that can manage your own strength. Furthermore, you must have a self that can control yourself, or in other word, self-control. This also means that you must become your inner self, rather than your external self.”

Gentleness may be just a pause away.

Being gentle sounds simple, but so hard to do (especially with my temperament)…I need a great Power to do that. “The greater Power that can overcome the power that makes me rough is one that is more eternal – one that lasts longer and even forever. That power is found in Spirit. It is the spirit that comes from God, which pulls all the spiritual things you need to possess gentleness. It is the spirit that is founded by love.”

It is a pull all right. And not a stretch of my patience, yet sweetly resisting taffy pull…no, I am talking full-contact sumo-wrestling tug-of-war.

But…Because of Grace, He is there with His promise:

For I am the LORD, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you. Isaiah 41:13

To Read Today: Let Your Gentleness be Evident

Tomorrow’s Post: Gentleness: First Do This

Day 21 Be Gentle Be Love

Images of Gentleness

“Day” 21 of the Be Gentle, Be Love  class centering on Gentleness will really be a week-long emphasis.

Yes, I need this focus immensely. Images cement the concept for me.

Gentleness poises over the cliff of retaliation and soars upward on gratitude’s wings


Abruptness, loudness, excessive force, impatience, and carelessness can hurt those around us and damage things. Gentleness is power under control. *

gal 5 22

If gentleness were a color, then it would be green. Yellow is too bright; red too angry, blue too serene, but green deepens as it strengthens. So does gentleness as it partners with firmness.

gentleness quote

Being gentle sounds simple,but so hard to do, especially when confronted with abrasiveness (especially with my temperament)

To Read Today: The Strength of Gentleness
Tomorrow’s Post: Pausing in Gentleness

*Quoted from Tom Holladay

A Word From My Sponsor~June 12

Proverbs 15 1

Proverbs 15:1~~ a gentle answer turns away anger but harsh words start quarrels~~~someone once said “but often it doesn’t because other people still are mad.” And dad said, “the gentle answer turned away your wrath and that is the key.”

A week-long emphasis on Gentleness begins tomorrow with Images of Gentleness  :)

Announcing Gentleness

…Take delight in honoring each other~ Romans 12:10

Encourage anyone who feels left out, help all who are weak, and be patient with everyone. 1 Thessalonians 5:14

When you are feeling neglected, overlooked, or ignored, what is your natural reaction? It depends on your personality, but you will probably either want to withdraw and take the approach of “you ignore me and I’ll ignore you,” or you’ll seek out a way to get that person’s attention. Either way, it’s all about you.

God wants you to choose a different reaction. With his controlled power, he wants you to make the gentle choice to focus on others. If you’re feeling neglected, chances are somebody else is feeling that way too, and you have the opportunity to do something for him or her because you can empathize.

Finding someone to encourage will get you out of the downward spiral of self-pity; you are now looking out for others and seeking to make a difference in their lives.

As 1 Thessalonians 5:14  tells us, it’s important to look for someone who most other people wouldn’t encourage…by Tom Holladay*

giving gentlenessGentleness is the storm Before the eye of the storm for me right now.

Because of Grace
, in God’s appropriate timing, it is also Day 21 in the Be Gentle Be Love class.

So, in a first for this blog, next week, Gentleness will be the week-long focus.

Actually it has been a life-long focus for me. You too?

*…To read the rest of Tom Holladay’s devotional, gently click here

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