Virtue of the Week: Gentleness


The colossal misunderstanding of our time is the assumption that insight will work with people who are unmotivated to change. Communication does not depend on syntax, or eloquence, or rhetoric, or articulation but on the emotional context in which the message is being heard. People can only hear you when they are moving toward you, and they are not likely to when your words are pursuing them. Even the choicest words lose their power when they are used to overpower. Attitudes are the real figures of speech.Edwin H. Friedman


I spent many years serving as a volunteer fireman in a small rural town in Oregon. Many times we were called upon to rescue people who had been driving and ended up in a ditch full of dirt for one reason or another. They were lost physically in much the same way that people get lost spiritually. With every fiber of their being they wanted to get up out of that ditch. Their heart wanted to. Their spirit wanted to. Their body wanted to. Everything within them wanted to get up out of that ditch. But they just couldn’t get out. That is how it is with people who are struggling with problems. Problems like addictions, marital problems, problems with kids, financial problems, etc. When they are laying in the ditch, they don’t need a lecture on safe driving tips, they need someone to go down into that ditch with them and help them get out.

Volunteer firemen go down and help people out of physical ditches all the time, and they usually get very dirty them-selves doing so. When they arrive on the scene they run down into the ditch and start doing whatever it takes to help the person get out. They don’t worry about their clothes, or how good they look, and they usually take some risks to their own well-being too. Maybe they have on a good pair of dress pants when the siren blew that day, or maybe one of them has on a brand new pair of shoes. But they don’t look down at the person in the ditch and yell, “I’m pretty clean up here with my new pair of jeans and all, I’ll just wait ’til you climb up out of the ditch yourself and get a little cleaned up before I deal with you.” or, “Hey, moron, what are you doing down in that ditch?” No, of course they don’t. The volunteer fireman throw themselves down into that ditch and get themselves dirty. They gently lift people up and carry people out. And they do it with as much care and concern for victim’s injuries as possible.

And that’s how it is in the world. YOU might be a spiritual volunteer fireman to someone in need. You might have to run down into a ditch and get a little dirty to reach people who are hurting.

We can’t be worrying about getting our designer jeans dirty or looking good doing it. We can’t be focused on lecturing people or being condescending. With great gentleness we need to reach down, pick them up, and carry them out.

Gentleness is how we can help get some hurt people healed and some lost people found.