Gentle Teaching

I recently had a conversation with a colleague who is involved in an organization called  “Gentle Teaching International,” founded on the work of Dr. John McGee.  “Gentle Teaching”, as described here,  (, “… is a practice that focuses on being kind, nurturing and loving toward marginalized children and adults – those who have been pushed to the edge of family or community life.”   In this practice there are four things that caregivers seek to teach those they are caring for:

“You are safe with me.”

“My hands will never harm you!”

“My words will never put you down!”

“My eyes will never look at you with disdain!”

The hope is that these lessons will provide a deep sense of being at peace with the caregivers and this peace will eventually spread to others around them.  It requires the caregivers to change their own reality to be more warm and loving rather than focusing on changing those they care for.  It also requires them to have patience with the lengthy process of change, to have deep commitment to the healing power of unconditional love, and to refuse all behavioral uses of reward and punishment in controlling others.  In other words, their commitment to gentleness becomes a cross they carry, a self-emptying or suffering.  Gentle teachers hope that those in their gentle care will come to know that it is “good to be with one another, good to do things with one another and good to do things for one another.” What better lessons can be learned in this world?  These are lessons in learning to become a person.

When I read this description I wondered why Gentle Teaching is only for the marginalized.  What if every teacher focused on teaching these lessons?   St. Seraphim said that you cannot be too gentle or too kind.  He also greeted everyone he met with the words, “My joy!”  He saw all coming to him as the icon of Christ.  He learned this from Christ, the most gentle of teachers.  May our eyes be on the faithful of the land (these saints of gentleness), so that their perfect ways will serve us and dwell within us and save us.  (Psalm 100:6)

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