A Tiny Secret for the Holidays

For many, the holiday season is a time of joy and sharing. For far too many others, the holidays are filled with emotional struggle; grieving loved ones who have recently passed or grappling with complex painful feelings. This morning, while rummaging through the archives, I found this piece, originally titled, "Try a Little Tenderness." Hopefully, it brings some warmth on this cold winter day.


Try a Little Tenderness

Emotions will be forever with us. They shape our individuality and distinguish our humanity. We can’t control what specific emotions will surface, but we can control what we do with them once they well up.

If we are fortunate, we will most often experience calm waters. There will be turbulence, but hopefully the storms will be short-lived; ebbing and returning to calmer seas once again.

Water is one of the elements in ancient Greek philosophy, in the Asian Indian system Panchamahabhuta, and in the Chinese cosmological and physiological system Wu Xing. In contemporary esoteric traditions, it is commonly associated with the qualities of emotion and intuition. - W.P.


In Taoism, water is used as a metaphor to teach wisdom and the changing nature of all things. Ancient Egyptians believed the world emerged from prehistoric oceans; the God named Nun. In Native American culture, water signifies creation and the flow of life from Mother Earth. Sigmund Freud proposes in The Interpretations of Dreams that it symbolizes sexual desire.

Water, this incredible substance, the chemical compound H2O, is also a significant component of the human body’s composition. On average; 60% of our body weight is of water. The brain and heart are 73% water. Our lungs are 83% water.


Human beings are not only comprised of water, it could be said that we also have strong tendencies to be very much like it.

If you slowly and gently touch the surface of a pool of water with the palm of your hand, it is very soft and giving. Your hand will easily break and penetrate the surface. However, if you slap it with your palm using force, it is extremely rigid and resistant. Your hand will repel off the surface and sting.

Water will assume the shape of any container, vessel, or mold. It will always flow downhill and take the path of least resistance. But, water can also have intense, overwhelming, and destructive powers. When it is agitated, it can destroy cement barriers and lift buildings off of their foundations.


There are many idiomatic expressions that involve water: in deep waters, head above water, in hot water, blown out of the water, like a fish out of water, a flood of emotions, sunken into the depths of despair, and drowning in sorrows.

Emotional and physical distress are aspects of life, intrinsic to the human condition. No matter how good someone may seem to have it, they too will bear their trials and tribulations.

Aren’t the people in our lives what matter most? Without them, what are we? Lonely, miserable, and isolated. They are both impactful and effectual on our inner world. They shape the quality, mood, and condition of our surroundings and reflect the essence we extend or project. Shouldn’t we regard and nurture them as we do ourselves?

For the Lakota, caring for them IS caring for self. Must not we do what is possible to enhance their lives? Are we not the gardeners and caretakers of our duration?

When we lose patience, become aggressive, or angry; we get hard. Like water, people don’t respond well to this. When we tell people what they should do, try to control them, or are forceful and overbearing, aren’t we being hard on them? Aren’t we pushing them away, often inducing the opposite outcome we intended?

Why is being gentle so difficult? Why is tenderness looked upon as a feminine trait when it takes so much courage to be vulnerable and exposed? What is behind the hardness? Is it anger, disappointment, sadness, regret, fear?

Why do we want to crawl up into a ball and disappear when we are upset? …or, retreat into our caves? Why do we punish ourselves even further with separation and isolation?

The next time your wife, husband, child, parent, friend, partner, or co-worker is distressed, angry, distraught, hurt; give them a little space. Be kind. Make them some tea. Make them a sandwich. Listen. They are the most valuable treasure in your life.

The next time YOU feel these things; be fair to yourself. Take note of your thoughts. Think back when you were eight years old. See that cute face, that sweet little person. Be kind and generous to him or her. That is still YOU! That is still your spirit, your heart, your soul. You may think that you’ve changed so much since then, but you really haven’t. That’s still you. Put your arm around that precious child and take a nice walk.

There’s a Tin Pan Alley song by Jimmy Campbell, Reg Connelly, and Harry M. Woods that says it all. It was made famous by the Ray Noble Orchestra, Bing Crosby, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, and Otis Redding. That’s right, it’s called, “Try a Little Tenderness.”

It takes a strong person to touch someone with softness, try a little tenderness…be gentle. Cherish the ones you love.