Quaker Life, Gentleness, Summer 2022: E-PUB VERSION
Purchase an electronic publication (e-pub) of the Summer 2022 issue of Quaker Life: A mosaic of Friendly living on the theme of Gentleness.
“To make a safe home for small children, to comfort one person in sorrow, to do one’s work as efficiently as possible, to listen with understanding, to be gentle with the old and courteous to the young—these are the humble tasks to which most men and women are called.”1
To ask people to write about gentleness is to discover, after the fact, that although we know gentleness when we see it, “gentle” is an attribute not easily defined. Even though the apostle Paul lists gentleness as one of the fruits of the spirit, even though Jesus describes himself as “gentle and humble in heart,” it is much easier to define some of the other fruits of the spirit—patience, for instance, or truthful speech, or peaceableness—than gentleness.
I think it is for that reason that so many of the entries in this Quaker Life issue on gentleness point to one or more specific events, and what the author learned about gentleness from them. Sarah Orrell writes about the effusion of love that washed over her four-year-old self when an elderly companion acted with compassion but no judgment after the child made a mistake. Ingrid Rogers expresses her life-long regret at responding to a child’s gift with correction, rather than gratitude; and her hope that her lack of gentleness in that moment never became part of a permanent barrier to the child’s experience of joy.
Hannah Lutz reflects on the surprising achievements of her marriage. Though she and her husband travel different spiritual paths, they are able to support each other in their differences, always holding each other in high regard—and being gentle with one another may have more to do with their ability to travel in partnership than love or the length of their relationship.
Melissa Snyder discovers that she can use a gentle response as a tool for better interactions with the parents of her students. When she reminds herself that a parent’s criticism of her teaching may be an expression of care for their child, she is better able to both address the child’s need and defend against the injury of the critique. Andrew Cope writes about his gradual realization that gentleness was a necessary component of his incarnational ministry with the poor and the socially disadvantaged—and the concurrent realization that despite outward appearances and expectations, pockets of gentleness already existed in those tough places.
In his Bible study lesson, Kelly Kellum reflects on the use of gentle as a verb. He wonders what it means to be “gentled” by God’s hand, and by what means he can become a more intentional participant in the process.
Bill Taber doesn’t use the word gentle in his essay on the Quaker practice of the “opportunity,” but the spiritual interactions he describes epitomize gentleness. They occur without preconception or judgment, they eschew coercion, they are open to both the guidance of the Inner Light and the words of the human heart. In similar indirect fashion, I discover that a thirty-year-old body of photographs that I thought were about educational method were actually about cooperation and the desire to be of help to others—and that those things result in gentle interactions.
Finally, Emily Provance considers the appeal that passion, self-sacrifice, and extremism hold for young adults. She understands the allure of those things, she writes—and is sometimes grateful they hold such appeal to the young. But in these extreme times, she thinks moderation may be the most prophetic stance we can take. Paul writes to the Philippians (4:4–7), “Let your gentleness be evident to all . . . Do not be anxious about anything . . .” Emily wonders whether such gentleness might be the true radicalism of our time.
— Daniel J. Kasztelan, Quaker Life editor
1 Olive Tyson, §10.18, Quaker faith & practice, Britain Yearly Meeting
(London: The Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends
(Quakers) in Britain; 2013).
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