Crafting Gentleness

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Confidence and certitude

Someone commented to me recently that I seemed very certain about my ideas about uncertainty.

I think there is a subtle and important difference between, on the one hand, confidence that I have about how I find things have tended to work in my experience (with subsequent confidence in what I think are appropriate generalizations that arise from that), and on the other, certitude in relation to my position whereby I hold my position in an absence of doubt and in a spirit of righteousness.

I would hope that I work with the former rather than the latter.

I am not afraid to be transparent, accountable, and responsible for the positions I hold. Maybe working to draw my ways of thinking and doing into a more integrated, holistic, and personal experience might be seen by some as arrogant, if the norm is to keep your ideas distant from your personal and emotional challenges? I don't know.

I know it is all too easy to slip into arrogance. I know it is all too easy to forget to put in the qualifiers in what I say - the maybes, the possiblys, the likelys, the 'as far as I can make sense of it' statements that ruffle the feathers and roughen the edges of a written or spoken piece.

I know it is all too easy to forget that I speak from the particularism of my own experience and that to extend that too far beyond my zone of proximity is to engage in what others have called the 'arrogance of particularism'.

What I like to work with as an assumption, however, is that the only true judge of whether I am adopting an attitude of certitude or not is myself. Only I can really work out to the level of subtlety that is most helpful whether or not I am proceeding with the elimination of uncertainty as an ethic in my life. Others can point things out to me; others can mirror my words and actions back to me; I can listen more carefully for the consequences and effects of what I do and say in the situations around me.

It is important to stay accountable for how I communicate what I communicate, to stay focused on my positioning in the particular, my positioning in this place, in this room, breathing this air, having these effects, always-already making these differences. It is important to keep the qualifiers hanging around, to the point of being pedantic. The absence of particularist qualifiers (the things that communicate 'I'm not sure' in speech and writing), the absence of explicit transparency, accountability, and responsibility for the Anthonynesses, the idiosyncracies of my own positions, that absence can feed into the generalised and generalising tendencies we [often] have to overstate the case for words, to overdeclare our confidence about our realities, to express opinion as certitude. I can often unwittingly and unwillingly communicate certitude where I feel none. I can do better.


  • A response after reading:

    The pursuit of a gentle life involves "...confidence that I have about how I find things have tended to work in my experience(with subsequent confidence in what I think are appropriate generalizations that arise from that..."

    so much of how we learn gentleness is based on repetition; through repeated acts and communication of thoughts people around us learn to feel safe, loved, loving and engaged.

    To recognise the potential for arrogance and to have accountability for how one communicates is vital to the process of teaching, creating, crafting gentleness.

    To be gentle I must remember I am interdependent with the others in my world and to learn how to maintain accountability in this a challenge.

    Thank you for the opportunity to think in these terms.

    By Blogger Chanticleer, at Monday, 27 August, 2007  

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