Please note that Current of Life was previously published under the title: Living Your Potential
It Starts Young
This past winter I was comforting a friend after her mother’s funeral. Emotionally spent from the service and reception that followed, we sat at home that evening with her family. Her sixteen year old daughter had been so poised and mature, as she received condolences for the loss of her grandmother. It was a school night after a very long day and she was exhausted. She cried as she explained the dilemma to her mother. She wanted to stay home from school the next day to catch up on the work she had missed, but she had to go to class because her two cousins had decided that they were going. How would it look to the teachers if her cousins showed up and she was home?
Although she was very clear on what she wanted to do, she needed permission and reinforcement. In one un-coach-like moment, I dispensed my advice and told her that sometimes it was best to let her godmother (me) decide! I explained what it meant to be gentle with yourself. I told her that she might as well learn how to do this now, "because the same types of situations happen when you’re an adult and working. Only you can decide what’s best for you.”
My goddaughter must have trusted the wisdom of two friends who have known each other since first grade (her mother and me). She took care of herself the next day, stayed home, slept in, and got all her work done.
Push or Pause?
A few weeks later I had a conversation with a 49-year old client. He was fast-moving, ambitious, and focused. He was also upset that some unforeseen things had arisen in his business and now he would not meet his desired timeline. His inclination was to put pressure on himself and work harder. I asked him what being gentle with himself would look like in this context. We talked about how this didn’t mean letting himself off easy or backing down from his challenges. What it did mean was to be kind to himself as he worked through them.
This may sound as if it’s a passive approach but it is not. Weeks later, he commented that he was still working hard yet was not as frantic. Rather than just pushing through, he was pausing first to consider how he was treating himself. The result was that he was less rigid, more flexible, and better able to appreciate the progress he was indeed making.
The Greatest Strength
I see the above two scenarios as examples of learning to be a gentle giant. There is power in being gentle, knowing yourself, and harnessing your energy. When is the right time to be a gentle giant? It is always the right time and especially when you might be tempted to be particularly hard on yourself (or others).
Who are the gentle giants you know? These are people who exhibit strength while retaining compassion for themselves and others. They might be great figures in history or people with whom you interact all the time. What can you learn from them?
What are your opportunities to be a gentle giant to others?
Where can you be a gentle giant to yourself?
“The greatest strength is gentleness.”
Here's to you,
© 2007, Virginia M. Kravitz and In the Current®. All Rights Reserved. You are welcome to reproduce this article provided it is without any alteration, includes the copyright above, and if distributing electronically includes a link to www.inthecurrent.com.
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