Journey to Gentleness

Gentleness is a state of consciousness. We cultivate gentleness when we refuse to beat ourselves up or to be harsh with others.  When we are gentle we accept our humanness.  We know that no one is perfect and we all make mistakes. So when errors are made, we try to learn from them and we do not blame and shame ourselves or others.  The more gentle we are, the more understanding and forgiveness we experience in our lives, and the easier it is to acknowledge and correct our mistakes.

Opposite States of Consciousness:  Perfectionism, pressure, harshness, criticism. Intolerance, punishment, lack of forgiveness. When we see that we are being hard on ourselves and others, we need to recognize our human imperfection and bring compassion instead of shame and blame.  We need soften, open our hearts, and be gentle with ourselves and others.

The Teaching

 When fear arises, we all lash out against others.  We are harsh or unkind.  We may even be brutal.   Our behavior toward others stems from a deep shame and unworthiness.   Not only do we judge, attack and punish others; we also judge, condemn and are often merciless toward ourselves.  
     We mistakenly believe that we have to perfect to get the love and attention we want.  Perfection, of course, is an impossible goal, and the more we expect ourselves or others to be perfect, the more blame and shame we carry and project onto others. The result is a very harsh and unforgiving world.
     Each one of us has to learn to accept our human imperfection and that of others.  We have to realize that mistakes are part of the learning process.  They don’t condemn us. Instead they offer us opportunities to grow and take responsibly for our thoughts, feelings, words and actions.
      Being gentle with ourselves and others is one of the key steps toward forgiveness. When we soften and stop shaming and blaming, when we see our trespasses and errors with empathy and compassion for each other, our relationships become kinder and more supportive. We learn how to get along as equals, with caring and mutual respect.  We stop being warlords and become peacemakers.
     Being Kind and gentle seems to be a no-brainer.  All our religions tell us to be kind and gentle, to treat others as we would like them to treat us.  But often we do this only in a superficial way.  We are polite to people’s faces and then gossip behind their backs.  We are gentle with the ones we like, the people who share our language, our culture, our religion.  But we are very harsh with those who are different from us, and even harsher with those who challenge our beliefs.
      We must learn to go deeper.   We must learn to accept and respect those who are different from us, those who have another experience or a different set of beliefs.   It isn’t easy to see how we are triggered by these people, and how we speak and act toward them in ways that are harsh and intolerant.  But we must see where we are biased, strident and unfair.  We must see our own blocks to love and acceptance as they reveal themselves. 
     We need to face our shadow material when it rises up.  Otherwise, we will continue to project our shame and fear onto others.  Violence, distrust, and segregation will be the norm.
     By learning to see our wounded child with compassion, we bring love to the parts of ourselves that feel unlovable.  That means that we soften inside.  Our rough edges begin to dissolve.  As we feel more lovable and acceptable as an imperfect human being, we extend the same compassion to others.
      Begin gentle with ourselves extends outward to others. And being gentle with others helps us to internalize that quality, so that we stop criticizing our inner child, and bring acceptance and love instead.
     Most of us can be very hard on ourselves.  So we must learn to ease up and take the pressure off.  We need to stop trying to be perfect or to be better than others. It is okay to be who we are and sometimes that means we come in second or third in the race.  We might even come in last.  If we can love ourselves even when we struggle or fail, we can win the ultimate battle of life: learning to love and accept ourselves unconditionally.
     Being hard on ourselves may deflect our judgments away from others and turn our anger inward toward ourselves.  This may take others off the hook, but often it leads to co-dependence.   It keeps the narcissism alive in others and reinforces our own victimhood.  Our self-deprecation and our lack of self-esteem feed the Narcissist’s grandiosity.  In contrast to us, he is always the best and the brightest and we continue to invite him to shine at our expense.
     When we are timid or intimidated by the power of others, and afraid to stand up for ourselves, we stay locked in our fear and shame.  We continue to beat ourselves up and to feel powerless to free ourselves from our emotional prison.
     In this case, our primary lesson is to learn to be gentle with ourselves and to put ourselves in environments in which we are encouraged to speak up and be seen and heard.   It may seem ironic, but in our case standing up to others can be a powerful way to be kind, gentle and nurturing to ourselves.

The Practice

Today try to get in touch with what is most challenging for you.  Is your biggest challenge to learn to be gentle and encouraging toward others? Or is your biggest challenge to be gentle with yourself? 
     If you have difficulty being gentle with others learn to stand back and take up less space in the room.  Allow others to breathe the air and be seen and heard.  If you are gentle with others but merciless toward yourself, have the courage to reveal yourself and refuse to be overshadowed by those who like to be the center of attention.
     As the events of the day unfold, notice when fear or shame arises and you either jump in with both feet or shrink back and hide. If your pattern is to shrink back and hide, practice gentleness by taking baby steps forward.  You cannot emerge from victim consciousness unless you risk being seen and heard. 
     Be patient and give yourself credit for each baby step you take.  Don’t put pressure on yourself, but don’t be intimidated either.  
     As you can see, there is a kind of balance that is needed here between the extremes of being gentle and being strong.  Those who are overly strong must learn to gentle with others.  And those who are overly meek must learn to stand up to others and be gentle with themselves.
      As The meek become stronger and the strong become more gentle, balance is achieved.  Then, masculine and feminine qualities can abide in all of us. Men can be gentle.  Women can be strong.  Integration happen and we can experience  greater success in our relationships.  

Journaling Questions

In what ways am I beating myself up? How am I being harsh with others? How can I learn to stand up for myself and be less harsh with others? 

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