Fake gentleness.

As I said last week, our culture tends to believe “gentle” describes someone who’s meek. Someone who’ll put up with our difficult behavior, and be smiling and sympathetic throughout. You know, like a waiter trying to get a good tip, despite how rude the diners are being. Or a mom who calmly cleans up her tantrum-throwing child, even as he’s still making a mess. Or a secretary who ignores his boss’s boorish shouting, keeps his head down, and does his job.

Now, those folks are practicing gentility: While other people are giving vent to their emotions, and being horrible people, they have taken full control of themselves, and aren’t behaving likewise. Yeah, sometimes that’s only because they fear the consequences: A secretary who shouts back, or a waiter who gives as good as got, are unlikely to keep their jobs for long. And a mother who throws her own tantrum will likely get a visit from Child Protective Services. Sometimes these folks aren’t really gentle, and are seething—and once they get some privacy, they’re gonna do their own venting.

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