The Virtue of Gentleness: For Yourself, and the Planet

September 22, 2022

Gentleness is an important fruit of the spirit. It is the virtue of being kind, tender, or mild-mannered. It is important to be gentle with other people and yourself, but did you know that gentleness also applies to the planet? 

In her book entitled “Go Gently: Actionable Steps to Nurture Yourself and the Planet,” Bonnie Wright uses the virtue of gentleness to encourage action in the environmental movement. First, she argues that we must all practice gentleness towards the environment through our daily actions. Secondly, she encourages her readers to also be gentle on themselves, and to take part in change as they are able.

Learning to be gentle is a difficult task. Just when you think you’ve made some progress, you find yourself back to square one. Funny enough, I experienced this frustration earlier this week.

On Monday morning, I had the brilliant idea to shop for my weekly groceries at a local farmers market. Not only was I excited to lower my environmental footprint and buy food in less packaging, I was also thrilled to support local farmers. I went in with high expectations of all of the things I was going to buy and cook, but I was quickly disappointed.

The farmers market was smaller than I imagined, and I was only able to purchase one item from my grocery list. Additionally, the prices of the produce and other goods were higher than what I normally pay at my local Trader Joe’s. And to make matters worse, it began to rain just minutes before my arrival at the outdoor market.

Due to these factors, I ended up doing my weekly shopping at Whole Foods. However, being a more expensive store, I had to sacrifice buying the local, higher quality items packaged in sustainable materials and instead, needed to purchase the cheaper option in plastic. I was disappointed to say the least.

But in my discouragement, I was reminded of the virtue of gentleness. It is vital that we all practice gentleness on the planet and seek to be good stewards. However, there is also a time when we must practice gentleness on ourselves. Unfortunately, a lot of the environmentally friendly products tend to have a higher price tag. This makes sustainability inaccessible for most people, a problem that needs to be addressed. And even when we try our hardest to care for the environment, there will be many moments in which we fall short. Working towards the goal of a cleaner planet is necessary, but it is important to be patient, and to go gently on ourselves. In order to affect even greater change, we must incrementally make change in our own lives. And doing it at a more sustainable and gentler pace, will have a positive effect in the end.


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