Out of the eater came something to eat,
And out of the strong came something sweet.
(The Book of Judges)
MOST OF US COULD STAND A LITTLE SWEETENING. To be described as sweet is not a criticism but a compliment, even for men. And in these days of stress and strain when life tends to make us hard, a bit of sweetness added to our character would be welcomed by those who have to deal with us. When you consider the opposites of sweetness — sourness, bitterness, unpleasantness, grouchiness, etc. — isn’t it clear that sweetness is an attribute we should aspire to?
Sweetness can be overdone, of course, and that is probably what most people have in mind when they think of the word negatively. Just as foods can be too sweet, so can people. Personally, I appreciate being called sweet, but I wouldn’t care to have it said that I am “sugary” or “saccharine.” That would mean there is an imbalance in my makeup and I am missing some qualities meant to complement sweetness, such as seriousness, realism, and strength. But balanced with other qualities, sweetness should be one of the traits for which we’re known. It simply means we have a pleasing disposition and are kind and gracious in our dealings with others.
But in addition to sweetness of disposition, there is also the sweetness of life itself. At least two things need to be said about this. One is that we often fail to appreciate it because of our abundance. For many of us, sweetness is a very ordinary, unexceptional thing, and as Shakespeare said, “Sweets grown common lose their delight.”
The other thing, closely related to the first, is that our hearts may have to be broken before we can understand the sweet side of life. As an old Jewish proverb puts it, “The man who has not tasted the bitter does not know what the sweet is.” And not only that, but it may take hardship and suffering to bring out the sweet side of our disposition. You may not think of yourself as being very sweet, and others may not think of you that way either. But when you have been deeply hurt, all of that may change. It will depend on how you choose to respond.
Aromatic plants bestow
No spicy fragrance while they grow;
But crushed or trodden to the ground
Diffuse their sweetness all around.