Unselfconscious Gentleness

July 12, 2011 § Leave a comment

Here’s something to think about whenever you feel hurt:

The Greeks have known since the time of Homer and Hesiod that it is possible to modify people’s decisions and inner dispositions by the careful choice of persuasive words.

The right way to act upon other’s consciences:

Showing benevolence to people who have made mistakes. In word and action,

“not chiding him and making him feel that we are putting up with him, but with frankness and goodness, …

with gentleness, without irony, not reproachfully but with affection, with a heart exempt from bitterness…

as a person to another person, even if others are standing nearby.”

-Marcus Aurelius Meditaitions (XI.13)

Here Marcus means that gentleness in itself, is such a gentle thing. That merely to want to be gentle means ceasing to be gentle, because any kind of artifice or affectation destroys gentleness.

We can act effectively upon other people only when we do not try to act upon them. Only pure gentleness and delicacy have the power to make people change their minds, even to convert and transform them.

Similarly then, when we want to do good to others, our intention to do good will be truly pure only if it is spontaneous and unselfconscious. The perfect benefactor is unaware of what he is doing.

“We must be one of those who do good unconsciously.”

Meditations (V,6,3)


*This post is adapted from Pierre Hadot’s “What is Ancient Philosophy?


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