The Joy of Gentleness
“Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.” (Philippians 4:5)
Probably there is no better picture of gentleness than that of a mother holding her newborn child. Her movements are slow, her voice is quiet, her touch is soft. Now, imagine that the father of that baby is a hefty professional football player. He is rough and tough and used to tossing footballs into the air and opposing players to the ground. Picture him as he takes his newborn son for the first time. This strong giant of a man tenderly strokes the baby’s head and coos soothing sounds into his ear. As we watch, we realize that we are witnessing gentleness with a capital “G”. The stronger a person is, the more important it is for him to be gentle with those who are weak.
Gentleness might be seen as exercising self-control for the benefit of others. Other characteristics related to gentleness include consideration, sensitivity, respect, understanding, generosity, fairness, mercy, reasonability, tenderness, and caring. Gentleness is not severe, does not rigidly follow rules, and is not harsh.
There are several biblical directives related to gentleness and each of them reveals something different about this characteristic. The first is the command in Philippians 4:5, cited above. We learn from this verse that if we have the trait of gentleness, others will see it.
The next command is in Colossians 3:12 where we are told to put on gentleness as if we were putting on a piece of clothing. In other words, gentleness is a choice. We choose to put it on daily.
The third command is in 1 Timothy 6:11 where Paul directs Timothy to pursue gentleness. Gentleness is elusive, it escapes us, and we have to chase it. God wants us to be serious about gentleness!
Maybe the first step in pursuing gentleness is to take a gentleness inventory. Let’s ask ourselves these questions:
· Do people feel at ease in my presence? If not, why not?
· Are people able to be honest with me?
· Is anyone afraid of me?
· Is my voice harsh or loud?
· Are people comfortable visiting in my home?
· Do others perceive me as understanding and empathetic?
· Do my hands convey love?
The answers to these questions might help us to see the areas of gentleness that we need to pursue. Becoming gentle is a process. We are now simply identifying the starting point.
How do we begin to cultivate this gentleness in our hearts?
First, we understand human frailty. The people around us are not perfect, but they need our gentleness. The more we can empathize with them, see their point of view, and feel their pain, the more we will find the spirit of gentleness welling up within us and our interactions with them will heal instead of hurt.
Second, we are to determine that we will, in all circumstances, exercise gentleness. This requires that we slow down, confront in love when confrontation is necessary, and lead without coercion or manipulation. But, in every case, we make gentleness a factor in our conversations and in the decisions we make, knowing that our decisions affect others.
Third, as we meditate on Scriptures related to gentleness, we open the way for God to show us what a gentle life is like. As we submit to the truth of the Word of God, it begins to become part of the fabric of our personhood and gentleness will be one of the strongest threads.
Finally, along with Scripture meditation, we will want to pray for growth in gentleness. If we ask the Spirit to convict us of times of ungentle behavior and attitudes, He will empower us to develop this powerful characteristic.
At some point we will realize that changes are occurring in us, and eventually, we will be able to claim the description in 1 Peter 3:4 of the “unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit.”
“The human personality is fragile; handle with care.” – Jerry Bridges