I am not as gentle as I should be from day to day, and I want to change that. But when it comes to waking up my wife or anyone else up, in a literal sense, I am very gentle. I would very much like to act like that in every context of life.
Of course, the concept of “waking up” extends beyond the notion of being asleep, physically. In waking someone up from delusion, or misperception, gentleness is also called for. A major component of gentleness is simple patience.
Folks do not, normally awaken from actual or attitudinal sleep in a moment. Sometimes, it is easy to forget that fact. We want a person to wake up suddenly for our own selfish reasons. We want him or her to perform a task or attend to OUR needs,. Affirm OUR beliefs. But the reality is that physiological of cognitive change frequently has an evolutionary aspect that cannot be denied—unless we stubbornly cling to denial.
What is the outcome of waking someone up with a literal or figurative shout, an angry shake, or even an epithet. (Get up, damn you, you lazy bastard,” or “Wake up, and smell the coffee, you idiot, Obama is doing a great job,” or “Obama is a disaster.” The result, I think we all know, is resentment and resistance and actual delay in the process of emerging from the many forms of sleep.
Gentleness also is related to deep caring, what those in the east, like Thich Nanh Hanh, refer to as lovingkindness. We may recognize that a person needs to wake up to face the day or incorporate some truth into their mental set, but we may also be cognizant of the human need for acceptance--”just the way I am”--in spite of pressing needs of the moment, or the need to embrace truth.
What is the result of striving to wake someone else up over and over, in a precipitous and aggressive fashion. Beside denial and resistance, a relationship can be damaged—even severed—when such a tactic is employed. Emotional trauma can even result from doing the opposite of waking someone else up gently.
Now, I know there are times when we must take the opposite course. On the practical level, what if there is a fire in the house? You are not going to take the gentle approach, in waking someone up. What if a person is about to make a disastrous decision, with lasting consequences? You might want to be swift and strong in altering their way of thinking. Usually, however, there is time to let nature take its course, and one can adopt the gentle approach.
Finally, if you want to free a person up to engage in creative reflection, the best way to do that is to tease out the imaginative impulse. Pay attention to the subtle signs of creative responsiveness, and then encourage—don't demand—the expansion of those “subtle signs” into strong currents leading to concrete forms of innovation, downstream.
Be gentle, in most instances, and the person eventually will wake up in much better shape, mentally and physically. And your relationship with that person will be sustained.
And the person--even the person prone to rigidity--may actually entertain a new thought.
--like tom Daschle and David Brooks. I submit that what they have to say may not change your mind, but you are more likely to listen to them.