Friday, September 23, 2011

Personal Peace Part 2 of 4: A Kind, Gentle, Peaceable Person

Recently I attended the funeral of my last living uncle on my father’s side.  He was a good man who never attained fame or glory.  He was my favorite uncle when I was young.  As I reflect upon my memories of him, a common thread is visible.  He was always happy and in a cheerful spirit.  When I visited last, he was worn down with the process of aging, but there was still his contagious smile always with a compliment to offer, always positive, always helping, and always cheerful.  As his funeral service was drawing to a close some final remarks were offered.  While the speaker’s thoughts developed, he began to describe Uncle Sterling.  His voice became clear, paced, and deliberate.  “Sterling,” he said, “was a kind, gentle, peaceable man, and we are all going to deeply miss his soothing influence.”  This comment permeated my soul and stayed with me the remainder of the day and well into the night.  In fact, here I am months later putting these thoughts down on paper.  What did the speaker mean by “a kind, gentle, peaceable man?”  The words sounded so nice and enviable to me.  What I would give if I were so fortunate to have someone utter these sentiments about me at the end of my days.  As I reflected upon the words individually, and then compared them to the man in question, I had to concur fully.  Of all the men I have had the fortune to be acquainted with, Sterling was indeed the kindest, gentlest, and most peaceable man I have known.

So what constitutes a kind, gentle, peaceable man?  Kind suggests someone who cares for others over self, someone who is slow to anger, and someone who has great patience.  Kindness implies that feelings and relationships are handled with care.  As I consider someone who is gentle, my mind thinks of softness in action and word.  A gentle person is tender, amiable, and considerate.  Religions worldwide affirm that true power comes through gentleness and meekness.  Most of us are kind and many can be gentle at times, but peaceable?  Now that is a serious attribute.  Of all the greatest that have ever lived, including Christ, Buddha, Mohammed, Confucius, and Socrates to name a few, all advocate that peace is the goal to seek for.  As an internal attainment, too often we apply great efforts striving for peace around us when in reality these labors are pointless in the attainment of true peace for it centers first from within.  To be peaceable one ensures that even when encountered by strong emotions, hurt and anger are not introduced nor amplified. 

I have a naturally kind spirit. Reflecting upon who I have become over the last 50 years requires me to look deep into myself for clarity.  We are all complex creatures full of emotions, chemicals and history, most positive but some destructive.  Buried deep within my fabric are conditioned behaviors developed as defense mechanisms from childhood sadness and disappointment.  Unfortunately, these emotional defense mechanisms became a central component of my adult life and, as such, an obstruction to my new goal of being peaceable.  After spending 35 years in business, most people would unfortunately describe me as being very assertive, dynamic, and determined; not peaceable by any means.  My nature is forceful, direct, and often confrontational.  I hold peaceable aspirations, but my methods have been influential and directive. My enthusiastic nature too often comes across as being angry when I actually intend to show excitement or frustration. 

So, here I am in my current state falling way short of my new vision.  It would be easiest to just lie back and accept where I am, and persist in being the person that is expected and accepted by those who know me.  Yes, easier but not wise.  I have had an excellent role model in Sterling who provided glimpses of the desired state of being.  What I choose to do with this new vision is entirely up to me.  The level of peace I attain becomes my personal responsibility.  It will take courage to change and in the end, if the only soul I have touched is my own, the struggle will be worth it.

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