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You will accomplish more, and conquer more readily, by yielding and humbling yourself, than by harshness and disputation. It is a matter of great importance to make our conversation agreeable. To do so it is necessary to appear humble, patient, respectful, cordial, yielding in all lawful things and to all. Above all, we must avoid contradicting the opinion of anyone, unless there should be an evident necessity for it. In that case, it should be done with all possible mildness, and with the greatest tact, without outraging the feelings of the other person. In this way contests will be avoided which produce only bitterness, and which ordinarily spring rather from attachment to our own opinion, than from love for truth.
In the Introduction to a Devout Life, the Saint gives advice on how to correct others. He stresses that gentleness, that is reason unaccompanied by passion, is the most effective because passion can tyrannize but reason accompanied by gentleness is much more effective: “By nature the reasonable soul is subject to reason and therefore it is never subject to passion except through tyranny.” St. Dionysius said, “The man who would correct others must first take care that anger does not stir up rebellion, sedition, and confusion within ourselves”. In correcting others, Saint Dionysius realizes that there is always the danger of becoming angry. However, we have to make sure that this anger is a just anger and does not create chaos within us so that we exceed the bounds of reason. St. Francis de Sales taught that as followers of the Gentle Saviour, we too are to take up the little virtues of joy, humility, meekness, patience, and simplicity so to conform ourselves to the Heart of God. It is not enough to practice great virtues. They must be performed in the spirit of love. For it is love alone which forms the basis of and gives weight and value to all good works in the sight of God. St. Vincent de Paul used to say, “At times a single word is sufficient to cool a person who is burning with anger; and, on the other hand, a single word may be capable of desolating a soul, and infusing into it a bitterness which may be most hurtful”. St. Bernard said, “There are some characters which appear very gentle as long as everything goes well with them; but at the touch of any adversity or contradiction, they are immediately enkindled, and begin to throw forth smoke like a volcano. Such as these may be called burning coals hidden under ashes. This is not the meekness which Our Lord aimed to teach, that He might make us like Himself. We ought to be like lilies among thorns, which, though they come from amid such sharp points, do not cease to be smooth and pliable”.
PRACTICAL TIPS TO BE GENTLE
1. Be kind and gentle with YOURSELF! Allow yourself to be moulded by the Divine Master and to change over time. The Lord Jesus, meek and humble of heart, wants each one of us to imitators of his meekness and humbleness.
2. Everyone must be treated with respect, prudence and evangelical simplicity. Be kind and gentle with ALL. Remember, everyone is on the same journey!
3. Always wear a serene countenance and be calm, no matter how tense the situation may be.
4. It is important to give proof of amiability. This is why Don Bosco used to say, it is not enough to love, but to make yourselves loved and to make sure that the boys know they are loved!
5. The man who, looks up to God alone, in whom he trusts, makes trust as the foundation of all he does. Hence, let us often, in practice, ask our Lord for the virtues of gentleness and meekness united to humility of heart.
St. Bernard said, “As without faith it is impossible to please God, so without gentleness it is impossible to please men and to govern them well”. St. Francis de Sales says that meekness and mildness of heart is a virtue rarer than chastity, and yet it is more excellent than that and all other virtues, for it is the end of charity, which, as St. Bernard says, is in its perfection when we are not only patient, but also kind. It is necessary, however, to have a great esteem for this virtue, and to use every effort to acquire it. Far from being weak, the meek possess an inner strength to restrain anger and discouragement in the midst of adversity. The beatitude of meekness is not only a gracefilled power, but a very elevated manifestation of that power. The real POWER of meekness lies in its capacity to diffuse anger. Meekness is particularly meritorious when practiced toward those who make us suffer; only then can it come from God and take us back to Him.