It takes strength and courage to be firm, assertive and give tough love. But you may find that being gentle requires power and bravery far beyond almost any other. To soften one's edges as a parent, spouse, sibling, mentor, friend, leader or follower can be intimidating to say the least. For any powerful, strong willed believer or faithful advocate, finding the gentleness in your nature may prove daunting for you. It can even feel impossible for some. Not unlike myself.
But being gentle can be learned. And it comes easier with practice.
1. Calm response
Reactions are for chemistry. Remain as calm as possible and respond to any news, good or bad, in a docile demeanor. Don't blow up, but try not to be stone-cold either. If you're at a loss for words, and really feel any utterance will have you blowing your lid, excuse yourself and go for a walk or run. Come back to discuss the issue after you've blown off some steam and released some of the pressure.
Remain silent when another is speaking. Actively listen. Engage in the experience of what they are sharing with you and going through. Then, when you have something meaningful and supportive to say, speak with love.
Speak softly. Use care with your words. Make them intentional, uplifting, and embracing.
Silence can be golden. It doesn't have to be awkward. Be still and peaceful with your spouse and children. This can take practice, but it is a great gateway to family meditation and prayer.
3. Affection and attention
Give affection and attention in various ways. Take a Sunday afternoon to teach your kids to bake from scratch using Grandma's famous recipe. Let your spouse teach you to fly-fish or crochet. Treat your besties to a brunch picnic in the backyard, at a park or the beach. Or invite the whole family over for an adults' and kids' play date.
Give each child undivided, individual attention. Personalize to their likes and interests. Do the same for your spouse. Perhaps this includes setting them up with some time to do what they enjoy while you do the same for yourself.
4. Play nice
Make sure playtime is supportive, and showcases your families' best qualities. Play board, card or video games together that work your brains, bodies and creative spark. Use this as an opportunity to express praise and give genuine compliments on affirmative values.
5. Fight fair
Make sure disagreements are lighthearted and respectful. Keep personal attacks and insults out of the arsenal. Come empty-handed, ready for a hug. Instead of holding a weapon, ready to strike.
A smile goes a long way. Use it every day in just about any situation - to lighten the mood, soften the blow or lift your spirit. Smiling and laughing are standard issue heavy artillery to soldiers of love.
7. Supportive tone
Focus your words and actions on encouragement. Focus on what will make things better and what is blessed right now. Make sure you note everything those around you are doing right and honor them as a person.
8. Soft shoulder
Just be there. Really be there and let someone just feel near you, with you or about you.
9. See their side
Really put yourself in someone else's shoes and see things from their perspective. Even if it's so skewed you don't know up from down or left from right. At least this way, you'll see through the glasses they look through every day and understand the way the world looks to them. You'll gain insight to how and why they operate as they do in it.
10. A child's eyes
See through the eyes of a child. Children are born of love and thrive in the moment. They feel, desire and are fulfilled in the moment. When wronged, they cry, make up and move on. Laughing, smiling and playing as they go. See your partner, your own kids and the world renewed every day. Cry, make up and move on.
11. The butter-rye effect
Cold, hard butter rips warm, soft bread. Give the butter time. Let it sit and do what it does naturally. Soften. Let the world be soft and spread you goodness throughout.
OK, that was a little cheesy. Well, more like buttery. But hopefully it put a little smile on your face or gave you a chuckle. This anecdote was all in lighthearted fun and in all seriousness. You're well on your way to gentleness already. You didn't even realize you were being buttered up! OK, that's it. I promise.
I have evolved a form of my spiritual teachings from very blunt, pragmatic and self-affirming empowerment coaching to a more docile, fluid and empathy-based form of teaching called compassion coaching. The foundations of unconditional love, personal responsibility and emotional ownership do not waiver in either proprietary brand of life coaching. However, compassion coaching specifically focuses the energy and attention of the issue or experience on softening the edges of your perspective. This is to be able to feel what another feels to help you heal your own traumas, and dissolve your emotional protective barriers. Allowing love and light into your life to radiate outward and spread far and wide. Particularly to your spouse, children, or anyone who needs it.
Don't be afraid to be silly, or have fun. To be gentle, just remember to keep your heart light, your smile wide and your arms open. You'll be amazed at how gentle you've become.