Tenderness is the most modest form of love.

Olga Tokarczuk

In her 2019 Nobel lecture “The Tender Narrator,” Polish author Olga Tokarczuk reflected on her belief that tenderness is an understated but vitally important form of love. “Tenderness,” she said, “appears wherever we take a close and careful look at another being, at something that is not our ‘self.’” Feeling tenderness toward another being, then, is an intrinsic emotion that goes beyond empathy. Tokarczuk called it a “deep emotional concern” that acknowledges the similarities in our shared and fragile existence and honors the bonds between all living things. We are each part of the whole, she suggested, and tenderness is a way of looking at the world as “alive, living, interconnected, cooperating with, and codependent on itself.”