GUEST COLUMNIST as it appeared in The Beaumont Enterprise November 13, 2022
All of us — especially women — need less violence in our lives
In 1966, the year I graduated from high school, Otis Redding came out with his version of “Try a Little Tenderness.” That age-old song had an ageless message for men.
A wise person, male or female, knows that tenderness is essential in a relationship as well as in leadership. I recall a day in years past when I had a meltdown in front of my boss.
Though his words had brought it on, his tenderness during my sobbing episode meant the world to me.
Showing tenderness is not weak. On the contrary showing tenderness is a sign of real strength.
“Nothing is so strong as gentleness. Nothing is so gentle as real strength.” — Frances De Sales
It is common to think of people like Mother Teresa when we think of tenderness. And of course, that fits. Or we may think of Jesus and his tenderness towards the thief on the cross.
Tenderness is demonstrated throughout the book of “Les Miserables,” the French historical novel by Victor Hugo, published in 1862 and later made into an award-winning musical.
In spite of these world renowned examples of tenderness, violence against women, especially, remains a problem.
The United Nations defines violence against women as “any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or mental harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.”
According to the World Health Organization: Violence against women — particularly intimate partner violence and sexual violence — is a major public health problem and a violation of women’s human rights.
Estimates published by WHO indicate that globally about 1 in 3 (30%) of women worldwide have been subjected to either physical or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime.
The wise man knows that tenderness is a virtue. One such man is Patrick Stewart. Sir Patrick Stewart — or you may know him from his role as Capt. Jean-Luc Picard in “Star Trek” — is a true example of unexpected tenderness.
After growing up in a home where his father was violent toward his mother, Stewart is determined to do what he can to stop domestic violence.
His statement: “The truth is that domestic violence and violence against women touch many of us. This violence is not a private matter. Behind closed doors it is shielded and hidden and it only intensifies. It is protected by silence — everyone’s silence.
“Violence against women is learned. Each of us must examine — and change — the ways in which our own behavior might contribute to, enable, ignore or excuse all such forms of violence. I promise to do so, and to invite other men and allies to do the same.”
Ruthless and thoughtless animosity shows up everywhere these days from road rage to political unrest.
Anger over differences of opinions boils over and becomes vicious. And I’m sorry to say, it is often instigated by men. Tenderness has a maternal element.
It doesn’t have to. We can teach young boys to be better men by teaching and modeling this wise trait.
We know tenderness when we see it in others and often miss the chance to demonstrate it ourselves.
Imagine how our world would change if we stressed that showing tenderness is real strength.
As the song says “Try a Little Tenderness.”
If you are in a abusive situation or know someone who is, please go to westrengthen families.org/#victimservices.
Gail Cawley Showalter is the author of “Living Learning Loving” and the founder of the nonprofit SMORE for Women. She can be reached at email@example.com
I hold a degree from Lamar University in Speech and a Master’s from the University of Texas. I was an educator in regular and special education for twenty years, finishing my professional career as a Braille teacher. I am a Certified Professional Coach with Fowler International Academy.
I married Sam after raising three children as a single mother.
In 2007 I founded SMORE for Women. SMORE is a nonprofit whose goal is Single Moms, Overjoyed, Rejuvenated, & Empowered. My stories have been published in several Christian books and magazines. My book, Living Learning Loving, Insights and Encouragement on the Path of Motherhood is available for purchase on Amazon.