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Tertio, a Belgian magazine, published last year in its number 878 an interview with Pope Francis. In this interview he paid attention for a big problem in our time: lack of tenderness or what he called cardiosclerosis. It is a tricky subject. At one side we need tenderness very much, but at the other side it lays closely to abuse.
From my own experience I know how important tenderness can be for people. I see my experiences as a sign of hope. But also, it is clear for me how sensitive tenderness is.
I know a mother, who slapped her children. Knowing her I realized that she did it as a sign of impotence. She didn’t know how to deal with her children as a low-literate woman.
She saw how I embraced her children and kissed them. Obviously, she missed this in her life. Once, she stand suddenly up and embraced me. Factually she asked me to treat her in the same way as her children. I decided to do this.
Then I saw a change in her behaviour. Thanks to my tenderness towards her, she started to show tenderness to her children. Obviously she felt to be respected by me, by which she could also show tenderness towards her children. As far as it is for her possible, she started to do the tasks of a mother for her children. My tenderness empowered her. She overcame her low self-esteem. Now she can communicate with her children.
I know a young teenage girl. Week after week she looked sad. I understood, why she was sad. She did her best for her family, but her parents slapped just her.
I started to comfort her and to caress her as antidote to physical violence. I realized very well that I has to handle this very carefully to avoid any sexual hint. The girl has to feel safe with me and not sexually approached.
I managed this and she liked to sit with me, caressed by me.
But this was not enough. She has to go further. Then I got the inspiration to say to her in her language: ¨you are good”. This was precisely the point for her: to be recognized as a good girl.
Immediately she jumped around my neck. She felt that I understood her completely.
Now her behaviour changed. No longer she sat beside me to be comforted by me. When I see her, she embraces me and then she continued to do her own thing. She shows that she can deal with everyone: little children and old women. She shows that she is a good girl and by this, people like her as a good girl. She develops a strong personality.
These stories show how constructive and powerful tenderness is.
Here is the difference between tenderness and abuse. Tenderness let people free and gives them the chance to develop their personality, respected as a human being.
Abuse means that the other is seen as an object to satisfy someone’s lust. It is dehumanizing the other, by which the perpetrator dehumanizes him- / herself, showing behaviour of an animal. Or do I have to say: a beast, with loss of dignity and of self-respect?
For this reason, women don’t like drunk men. They don’t control themselves. This is also the reason, why alcohol is forbidden in Islam.
Abuse is not only for the moment horrible. The body of the abused person remember it a lifelong without regard the age, on which the abuse happened,
Tenderness is a call to humanize our relations. It is a tool, by which a person prove to be an adult and helped others to become an adult too. It is a way to peace on all levels.


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Louis Bohte ofm

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