Ours is an era of bravado, coarseness, and bluster. Gentleness, when exhibited by any over a very young age, generally elicits contempt, or at best, pity.
It’s time to reconsider gentleness.
After all, isn’t gentleness a fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:23)? Are we not commanded to let our gentleness be evident to all (Philippians 4:5)? When we converse about our faith, giving account for the hope we have within us, are we not told to do so with gentleness and respect (I Peter 3:15)?
If we claim any sense of guidance from scripture, then we should think twice about emulating the swaggering pastor-boys who talk rough and fast and blunt. While their doctrine may be sound and their demeanor appropriate to their context, that does not mean that they are examples for the whole body of Christ.
This isn’t to say that we should become doormats for the world; for gentleness does not call us to watery servility. Paul says that the teacher should be able to correct opponents with gentleness (2 Timothy 2:25) – notice that the correction/confrontation still has to happen. In Galatians, Paul says to use a spirit of gentleness when restoring those caught in transgression (Galatians 6:1). This command implies that there is discipline/confrontation involved.
Here’s my take on gentleness. Gentleness is not weakness. It is not shying away from controversy. Nor is it fragility or softness.
Gentleness is about wise use of strength.
Gentleness is about knowing how much strength to use in the situation before you. When we see a football linebacker volunteering in a kindergarten classroom, we use the term “gentle giant.” Said linebacker is not somehow weak or fragile, but rather is holding back his massive strength so that he can accommodate properly to the situation.
Gentleness is about using just enough force for the situation.
When we pick up an egg out of a carton, we hold it gently so as not to break it. When we are ready to use the egg, we know how to apply just enough force to crack the shell without smashing it. That is gentleness. We understand this – it is obvious.
Why then do we have such a hard time applying this truth to our interactions with people? Why do we have such a hard time adjusting the strength of our language and emotional tone to properly meet the situation before us? Why do we steamroll over the person in front of us, giving little heed to the emotional effect it will have?
Some of us are woefully unaware of our own inner dynamics, and therefore unaware of the strength we project.
Others of us are oblivious to the environment in which we find ourselves, assuming that it is pretty much like other situations we’ve been in.
Still others are so overwhelmed by the exponentially growing opportunities to interact with others in varying ways. Or they are confused by the social norms of new means of communication.
And let us not forget that we all, every one, has a heart of darkness. In our worst, most selfish moments, we simply expect that everyone should adjust to our way of being. I am, as they say, on the front car of that roller coaster. I am in deep need of grace to grow in gentleness.
Wise use of Strength.
Using just enough force for the situation.
Working with these definitions of gentleness, who would you identify as exemplifying this virtue? Your comments, please.