Gentleness

“Go and give some money to that blind beggar,” said the Rabbi of Witkowo to his son when they were walking together. The boy did so and then rejoined his father. “Why did you not raise your head?” asked the father. “But he is blind,” replied the boy, “he could not possibly see me.” “And how do you know,” retorted the Rabbi, “that he is not an imposter? Go raise your hat.”

Saint Frances de Sales, a Doctor of the Church, always remarked that “nothing is as strong as gentleness, nothing as gentle as real strength.”

A hunter in the desert saw Abba Antony enjoying himself with the brothers, and he was shocked. (We have such strange ideas of holiness!) Wanting to show him that it was necessary sometimes to meet the needs of the brothers, the old man said to him, “Put an arrow in your bow and shoot it.” So he did. And the old man said, “Shoot another,” and he did so. Then the old man said, “Shoot yet again,” and the hunter replied, “If I bend my bow so much, I will break it.” Then the old man said to him, “It is the same with the work of God. If we stretch the brothers beyond measure, they will soon break. Sometimes it is necessary to come down to meet their needs.”
Supposedly the author of a collection of famous Greek fables, Aesop wrote, “Good manners and soft words have brought many a difficult thing to pass.”

This clergyman was travelling with a companion who was rather improper in his conversation. He was constantly punctuating his talking with swear words and blasphemies. The clergyman was very disturbed but he did not want to irritate his companion. At a certain moment however he thought of a stratagem which might work!

“May I ask you a favour, sir?” he asked his companion. “There will be some ladies coming on this coach. Should I fail to remember and use a swear word in front of the ladies, would you kindly rectify me?” The companion got the message and he was cleaner in his speech from that moment on!

“The art of saying appropriate words in a kindly way is one that never goes out of fashion, never ceases to please and is within the reach of the humblest.”

David Livingstone was a Scottish missionary and explorer in Africa. In 1871, Henry Morton Stanley embarked on a journey in the jungles to locate Livingstone, of whom little had been heard since his departure in 1866. When he found him, he spent months in his company. Though he never spoke about spiritual things, Livingstone’s habits were beyond Stanley’s comprehension. For the sake of Christ and his Gospel, the missionary doctor was patient, tireless, eager, spending himself and being spent for his master. Stanley wrote, “When I saw that unwearied patience, that unflagging zeal, those enlightened sons of Africa, I became a Christian by his side, though he never spoke to me about it.” Two years later Livingstone was found dead by his African aides.

I believe it was the Master who invited us to “learn from me, because I am gentle and humble of heart”. Gentleness must be an important virtue.


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