tenderness & gentleness: why it is important

We are beginning week two of a series on femininity. Last week we covered how our words are related to a biblical, feminine heart. You can find these posts by clicking on the link "the heart of femininity" to the side. This week we begin a series on tenderness and gentleness. Thanks for reading!
Tenderness is not solely a feminine quality. Jesus' life in the Bible is covered in compassion, mercy, gentleness (of course, he also possessed great cunning, might, and fierceness). But, looking at gender differences we do see a core part of girls that is naturally tender and gentle. We can see that guys are, by God, designed to be warriors, protectors, fighters, defenders. Yes, they should cultivate tenderness, but there is, in the heart of a woman, an essence of tenderness that shines when she is pursuing to be a woman after God. 

John and Stasi Eldredge put it this way in their book Captivating: “Every woman in her heart of hearts longs for three things: to be romanced, to plan an irreplaceable role in a great adventure, and to unveil beauty.” These three desires that can only happen when a heart and life is tender are not bad things, but unfortunately the world has taught woman otherwise. Society has said that the feminine heart must be made tougher in order to “survive.” In fact, in looking at past decades, we see an increase in the softening of boy’s heart and destroying their longing to protect and the toughening of girl’s heart and belittling their longing to be tender. And, in my opinion, this is truly a tragic thing.

Tenderness would at one time have been dominantly described of women. Women were known for being more in touch with their emotions, able to cultivate relationships that were richer and deeper at a much quicker pace than their male counterpart and had a natural longing to nurture and care for. Now tenderness seems void in the average lady's life. We are told to act like “men;” be strong, never cry or show emotion. We are told to be ruthless, manipulative and rough.

I believe that men have it rough in today's society. They are told to demonstrate their manliness in a various ways. "Prove your a man!" cries the world. In essence, men are told to prove that they are their own gender. How twisted is that? I have never walked out the door and thought, "I sure hope I prove I am a woman today." Being a woman was never something I felt I had to verify, but men are unfortunately told they must make certain their own manliness. Beth Moore expanded on this saddening truth in one chapter of her book So Long, Insecurity. Discussing this idea that men must prove they are men she said this: "Whether [women] are married or single, moms or not, women tend to be more confident of their basic womanhood... Even with the ravages of cancer leaving breastless chests, hairless heads, and total emotional upheaval, most females still tick and tock like women until their time is up.... Men in this society, on the other hand, feel they have to earn their manhood." With all that is going on in a man's world the need for affectionate, for gentleness, for respect, for tenderness is apparent. Men need a woman they can go home to that won't bark out their slip ups or demand action. They need a woman who knows how to get to the heart of the issue. A woman who is tender enough to allow the tenderness of the man to be revealed. 

The same can be said of friendships with other women. God knows women have it rough, too. We are given a standard of what we must look like, talk like, act like, be like---all the while making it look effortless. In these moments we need a place we can go and be at rest. In this society we need a person we can turn to and let our guard down, shake off the insecurity and lies and simply become the woman we were made to be. In the experience of tenderness others can do this.

Tenderness is important in sustaining and cultivating relationships. Gentleness is key in loving another person. Is being tender difficult in today's world? Yes. Is cultivating gentleness a battle? Certainly. Is being vulnerable scary? You bet. But is it worth it? A million times, yes. As M. Scott Peck once said, "There can be vulnerability without risk; there can be no community without vulnerability; there can be no peace, and ultimately no life, without community." 

Have you ever pondered how vital vulnerability is to cultivating relationships? Do you think you are tender and gentle? What are some ways you think you can become so?

*I am not saying that if you are not a stay-at-home mom you are ruthless or in the wrong but I also want to create an atmosphere that values the goal of being a stay-at-home mom, not an atmosphere that belittles it. I am tired of people devaluing what motherhood truly is: the shaping of a child's life, the enriching of a child's mind, the heart of a child being formed. And I believe that we should fight for women who choose to challenge the status quo so that they can pursue one of the most worthiest of callings: motherhood.

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