St. La Salle was a true gentleman having been brought up to treat others with dignity and respect. He would never offend anybody in word or deed. In this he was trying to follow Our Lord who said: "Learn from me for I am gentle and humble of heart." (Mt 11:29)
It is in this spirit that La Salle is able to say: "Never speak to anyone except with kindness, and if you fear to speak otherwise, keep silent." For him, speaking in a gentle and friendly manner is the way to "touch hearts".
Gentleness, kindness and tenderness are especially needed by educators. Absolute authority, a harsh, unbearable attitude in a teacher is negative and non-productive. This attitude sees the children as objects or instruments, the teacher unable to sympathise with human weaknesses.
Of course this does not mean letting the children do as they please. La Salle insists they must be corrected when they do wrong; otherwise thy will become wayward, idle and unruly. He therefore recommends that we correct the children firmly but kindly. Our zeal for what is good is always to be tempered by love and gentleness.
Like good shepherds great tenderness must be shown to those entrusted to our care. We are to help our students "to be gentle and to have a tenderness for one another, mutually forgiving as God has forgiven them in Jesus Christ."
La Salle makes gentleness one of the twelve virtues of a good teacher. Indeed much more is written on this virtue than all the others. We are also rightly reminded that our gentleness and humility will be tested by fire. Angry or abusive words, unjust accusations, real or imagined slights, will test whether our gentleness is genuine or not.
La Salle's approach is that we should remember Our Lord's attitude when he was most harshly treated and also remember the words of St. Paul: "For when I am weak, then I am strong". (2 Cor 12:10)
Some people call this "tough love". In any case, to be firm but gentle is the Lasallian way.