This morning I ran across this quote in my prayer book: “No matter what happens, be gentle with yourself.” – Jeanne de Chantal. The rest of the morning’s liturgy was on the topic of hospitality. It got me thinking about what the two have to do with each other. What does it mean to be hospitable? What does it mean to be gentle?
Being an extroverted person, I talk to a lot of people. Yesterday I had a very funny conversation with a Chase bank associate about the variety of ties Chase makes for its employees. I think hospitality is something that goes beyond having people over to your home – it’s a lifestyle, a way of interacting with people. Not only is it having a welcoming attitude, but I believe true hospitality is taking the time to see people, listen to people, and know people.
Where does gentleness come into this? Well, I’m not sure you can have hospitality without a certain measure of gentleness. I’m not talking about speaking in a soft voice, and fading into the background servanthood (although there is nothing inherently wrong with those two things), but having grace surround your words, your eyes, your thoughts, and your ears. It might look like taking the time to see why someone is angry, asking how someone feels, or just listening rather than reacting with defensive or hurtful words.
This isn’t a patch of daisies. It’s difficult to get outside our own skin and see the people around us as beautiful human beings. It’s hard not to judge, to take things personally, or compare ourselves with the very people we’re trying to be hospitable to!
I fail at this every day. And sometimes, I “get it”. I want to keep trying to really see, know, and listen to people. I want to be a gentle person, with others, and myself.
Are you approaching the people in your life with gentle hospitality? Today, will you take the time to see, listen to, and know the beautiful human beings you come across?