About Jesus Christ: In the next place, his love is tender, wise, and strong. I say that it is tender, since he has taken upon him our flesh; wise, since he has held himself free of all sin; and strong, since it reached to the point of enduring death.
Bernard of Clairvaux, Sermon XXII on the Song of Songs
The tenderness is linked to flesh, and Bernard also speaks about the tenderness of our carnal love.
The tenderness stays apart from wisdom and strength. We may simply infer that it is not able to prevent one from evils, being unwise. It cannot endure evils, too, and most of all death, being weak.
Thus, it seems to be fitted only for good things. With its weakness and lack of wisdom, there is less probable that it could be stay firmly attached to good things. It rather floats around them, as the flesh can hardly and for short time be strictly attached to the bones and to the harsh rhythm of life.
When it is close to good things, there is a matter of luck and not of a purposive and strong decision. It is a happy meeting, but bearing the sadness of its lack of any firm tie with them.
The appearance of tenderness in contexts of speaking or thinking is both a strange and a familiar one. It is strange because of our habit of attributing to words and thoughts wisdom and strength; it is familiar, because of the tenderness inscribed in our flesh.
Since it is far from being strongly attached to good things, the tenderness does not assure us that our discourses or thoughts are good ones. Therefore, its presence does not announce their true value, though it is not a manifestation of falseness. If it is noticed, it seems to drag them down to an intimate ownership. In fact, the sense of tenderness ever stay in the back of our words and thoughts that tend to show themselves as having the hardness and eternity of a different being than the carnal one which we are.
Against the Christian interpretation, the tenderness of flesh is not a passive part of human being. Actually, when it becomes a passive attitude, tenderness does not exist any more, but the things impressed on it. It comes to be their companion. For instance, tenderness survives together with sexual lust as long there is involved the softness of the flesh and it is not moved away.
When the tenderness is contained by love, there is precluded any sense of passivity. Its weakness and unwise nature are directed to the object of love, though, as Bernard specifies, it is not sufficient for love.
The tenderness can be contained by philosophy as love for wisdom, too. It would be or has already been useful in order to add the necessary carnal humanity to our thoughts. For instance, we have the tenderness of Socrates’ humility in the act of philosophical dialogues.