The idea of treating my back pain with gentleness rather than brute force is appealing. The people in that product’s marketing division were very wise to use seemingly contradictory words to sell their pain pills. The word pairing reminded me of oxymorons like “jumbo shrimp”, “casual formal”, or “elementary calculus”.
I swallowed two of the pills with a glass of water as instructed by the label directions and settled into a chair to await the promised pain relief. It was a good time to ponder the word pairing of gentle and strength.
In our culture, excess machismo and authoritarianism are valued over authentic leadership skills. Swagger and physical force are seen as the way to gain power and influence over others. Overt assertiveness is the advice given by self-help gurus as the way to prosperity and happiness. So, it takes courage to live a life with gentle strength.
Most of us know at least one relative, school teacher, or friend who exhibits the integration of gentleness and strength. He or she is shelter in times of crisis. He or she is strong yet is not showy about it. He or she says “yes” or “no” from a place of conviction rather than the desire to please others or avoid trouble. We might think of that individual as an authentically strong person. That man or woman is worthy of our full respect.
Lord Bryon said, “He possessed beauty without vanity, strength without insolence, courage without ferocity; and all the virtues of man without his vices.” To have someone like this person as a friend or mentor would be especially valuable. He or she would inspire us to emulate but not mimic him or her.
I make this wish: “Our nation’s politicians should lead with gentle strength instead of the dishonorable way they do now.” Our world would be a better place if all the world leaders guided us with gentle strength. Perhaps this hope is just a remnant of adolescent idealism, but it’s still valid.
When all is said and done, I think that we can best move the world through gentle strength.