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the simple and the gentle

In the classic The Legends of King Arthur and His Knights, characters carry a myriad of often antiquated titles; kings, queens, sorcerers, barons, knights, maidens, squires, damsels, etc. Still, I was surprised to discover that in the legend every character fits into one of two broad classifications: the simple or the gentle. Even more surprising was discovering a king could be among the simple and a servant among the gentle.
Our term “gentleman” clearly arose from the classification of the gentle. Lady does as well, albeit with less grammatical directness. A traditional definition of a gentleman or a lady is a person who makes it their priority to do what they reasonably can to make everyone around them as comfortable as possible.

There is no clear 21stCentury correlation for
the simple. The King Arthur legend suggests the simple share one overriding priority—to make themselves as comfortable as possible. The simple does not mean simple-minded. Rather it implies a simple focus. Rather than troubling oneself with the complexities of others, the simple simply focus upon themselves. Self-focus is far more simple than trying to ascertain the mysterious ingredients that put others at ease.

Imagine you’re in an airport and will soon board an airliner. You’re hungry. You crave a Subway sandwich of salami and pepperoni with onions and garlic sauce. If you buy that sandwich then eat it on the plane, a Knight of King Arthur’s Round Table would identify you among
the simple. You simply did what you wanted, with little concern for how it might impact others.

If on the other hand you don’t bring your Subway sandwich on the plane because you thoughtfully imagine salami, pepperoni, onion and garlic fragrances might discomfort those seated near you; King Arthur’s Knight would classify you as one of
the gentle.

Today, many people would buy the sandwich and eat it on the plane, they’d put their own stomach ahead of the noses of others. Such people are
the simple—preoccupied with self.

Christ-followers are called to be
the gentle.

The apostle Paul wrote, “Let your
gentleness be evident to all.” He instructed Christ-followers to, “cloak yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” The apostle explained, “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, gentleness and self-control.”

In these crass and even abusive times, gentleness is refreshing and can be attractive. The apostle Peter challenged persecuted Christ-followers; “
Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect… .” Gentleness and respect. How novel. ~

Dan Nygaard