On Gently Becoming
For the longest time, I wished to be good, but found myself far from it. And I wished to be good not for the sake of Goodness itself, but simply to be one who identified with the Good. But if I had learned to recognize Goodness in its true sunlight form instead of staring at its shadows, perhaps I would have known that Goodness never demands my goodness, but envelops me in it so that I find myself closer and closer to the Good, inch by inch, day by day.
But a slow learner I was, and so when I heard words such as these:
“May we be kind, surely – and may we be patient, empathetic, open-minded…”
I thought to myself, ‘But there are days and seasons when it is just too hard to be kind; when we do not know how to be patient; and when, no matter how hard we try, I cannot see the Other as a growing, striving human being just like me. What, then, do I do?’
And I imagined the reply, “We don’t know, but we don’t care. Be gentle, be kind, be patient – do it all now. You must, you must!”
I must try harder, I decided. And so I pushed such days and seasons aside and focused with vigor on the goal of becoming Good and Gentle, Kind and Patient. But when I stumbled and fell into the ditches of careless words and thoughtless actions, the tumbles were harder and rougher than they were ever meant to be. Why had I fallen? Why was it so difficult to emulate Goodness? What did this say about me if I couldn’t be a Kind and Gentle friend to others?
But hands came down from up and above, and their voices untangled my fingers from the lies I had clutched so dear:
“There are days, dear friend, when we lash out, tap our feet, and care not for others. But we are all slowly becoming kinder and gentler people in the process, and that is good enough.”
And so, I am slowly exploring what it means to go about life with grace for both myself and those around me – a holistic, abundant sort of grace that covers all, even the very process of Gentleness itself. The goal is not to become Kind and Gentle, but kind-er and gentle-er. We can never emulate Goodness itself, but there is sufficient value to be found in learning to gently seek, gently speak, gently comfort in the many ways that we each learn how.
Go about gentleness gently. Have grace for the mean, terrible, shadowed self you see staring back in the mirror on some days; and have grace, too, for the kind, generous, shining self you see on other days – for both come and go, and it is all a part of the process.
And in the midst of it all, I remind myself to keep in mind what my good friends told me as they pulled me up and dusted me off. “Look! We are here; you have gentle souls about you who recognize your longing for the Good echoed in our own hearts. And that is all we need sometimes.”
Take a breath, take it slow – take it one day at a time.