Sunday, July 23, 2006

Fruit of the Spirit: Gentleness

I've been thinking about this topic quite a bit over the last couple of weeks.


The other fruit we've covered - love, joy, peace, longsuffering - I tend to think of as attributes. Gentleness, to me, is something that directly impacts every person in our lives. Gentleness potentially has a huge impact on how we treat other people and perhaps even how those people treat themselves.

Gentleness. The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition defines it as "Considerate or kindly in disposition; amiable and tender." Hmm. Tender. How often do we hear that word? And how often do we treat other people with love and....tenderness? Not too often, huh?

Our society seems to value those who speak the most candidly. Being blunt is considered to be a positive attribute of its own. Temporarily, we all tried to be politically correct, but that madness quickly passed. And whoever speaks the loudest these days is the person to whom we listen. We have radio hosts like Howard Stern. Media favorites like Rosie O'Donnell. And outspoken critics like Bill O'Reilly. On our tvs and on our radios every single day. But few people are talking about tenderness.

And I admit I'm not much better. I've always been known for my bluntness. And it serves me well in ministry, but (and this is a big but) not in too many other places. I believe it is okay, under the direction of the Holy Spirit, to tell a person how they can grow in Christ, what steps they need to take to be closer to God or areas in their spiritual lives which need improvement. It is not okay, however, to feel that you are the world's spiritual advisor. Instead of condemning anybody else here, I will just condemn myself: it is not okay for me to tell my friends, family and strangers like why their lives are a mess, why they need to get themselves together or why they are falling so far short of their individual marks. But I have. And, occasionally, I still do. But I'm learning...

I'm learning that God values discretion, gentleness, and yes - tenderness - in our dealings with people. It shows so clearly in Proverbs 15:1, where it says:
A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger

A soft word turns aside bad feelings, strife and discord. But words that are harsh just stir things up. A good proverb for me to know.

And you know what I've learned? Being harsh towards someone else never solves a problem. It just engenders bad feelings. You've seen this for yourself - you've been in many situations where something happened where you felt that the proper response included 'breaking someone down' (i.e., cutting another person up emotionally, stripping them of their psychological defenses and exposing their faults to the world). And have you ever seen it help? I mean think about it. Really. After you've told your friends about it and and they've cheered over every word you said, where did it all end up? You - feeling badly because the Holy Spirit has reminded you that you shouldn't treat people that way. And the other person - bitter, angry, embarassed and hurt. And you have definitely not made that other person see his or her (real or imagined) faults. People automatically rush to defend themselves (right or wrong) in the face of an onslaught. And that's what you were - an onslaught. Remember - HARSHNESS BEGATS HARSHNESS. I don't believe you or I will ever get anywhere as long as we treat people unkindly.

But you know what I have seen work? Calmly talking to another person about what's going on. Asking that person how he or she see things instead of always forcing your point of view on that person. Taking the time to explain how some situation or unkind word affected you - not assuming that person knows and simply doesn't care. In other words, being kind instead of boisterous, self-righteous or hard.

Gentleness. Tenderness.

It's what Jesus showed his diciples as they asked him question after question. At times, they even questioned who he was! He never lost patience. He always spoke kindly. And he equipped those disciples to establish a religion that has had a world-wide impact. That shows clearly the power of a kind word.

Can you be kinder to those who are around you? Can you practice tenderness as you help guide your spiritual brothers and sisters on their own spiritual journeys?


Something the world could use a whole lot more of...

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J-Solo said...

Fantastic, sis! Enjoyed this post. Blessings upon your every endeavor.

Anonymous said...

Excellent post! I strive daily to kind and gentle to all I meet. Some days are a breeze and other days are filled with obstacles! But in the end, I always feel better when I have treated someone with kindness and gentleness.

We all liked to be treated with kindness, but sometimes in the hustle & bustle of our day, we tend to forget about those small things that makes a person feel appreciated -- kindess, tenderness, gentleness, lovingness, etc.... these small gestures go a long way and have a lasting impression.

mmog37 said...

Well said...
my picture used to be in the dictionary next to the word "blunt" as I continue to grow in my walk with Christ I have discovered that I truly do reap what I sow now that I view each of my actions and attitudes as seeds being sown into my own life I am better equipped to be gentle with others...but I must admit some people bring me pretty close to the edge sometimes =)

Enigma said...

It is something a lot more of us need to remember. Death and life does live in the tounge. K' you want someone to grow, remember that God showed Elijah that He often whispers, so what are you doing shouting? I have to remind myself of this often. Bluntness is used as a last resort by me now, or at least that is my goal. Sometimes shutting your mouth is the best way to be gentle, more of us should try that method as well ;0 Becoming a good or better Christian is so hard. I am hard on myself, I know others are hard on themselves too. Good reminder to be kinder, gentler. Thanks.

ms mimi the mocha soulchild said...

I often find myself vacillating between believing that kindness as strength and kindness as weakness.

I don't believe gentleness is weak; in fact, it is active. It takes more strength to be kind than it does to be brutal, because it involves restraint and self reflection. It requires grace to see beyond the fault and find the need.

The world, however, is a different story. The world believes that gentleness is a sign of inferiority. It inhibits you from career promotion, from being taken seriously, from being seen as a good "leader." I know for a fact that if I were the kind of cut throat like many of the individuals I know, I would be in a leadership position.

But the problem is, I would not be fit to lead.

True leadership is not about control, because true leaders exercise passive control. They don't have to beat somebody into submission. People want to follow them. They allow others to develop their leadership skills.

I'd rather live my life struggling to be firm, but gentle, than to be rewarded for being brutal. Ultimately, nobody respects someone they fear, and neither do they truly love them.

Unknown said...

yes, I need to be kinder. I'm a mother of a six year old and have the nerve to be a brownie scout leader of twelve girls!! why did i do that?

great post. great blog.

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jazztheo said...

just found your blog and I'm looking forward to interacting with your thoughts as time goes on.


Anonymous said...

Kindness. Gentleness. Tender.. what. I have found in my daily walk that I was proud. Yes, proud of my outspoken nature. I have found that I was full of it. Of hurt. Anger. Dare I say it...Sin. Daily walk. It was more like a drunken stumble. I can see me clearly. Not to beat myself up or berate myself but to understand that now that I am walking a little more on my own the testimonies that I have. The help true desires of my heart. The oneness God is good.

mencari kebenaran said...

1 would like to ask you baby..where is the story of jesus when he was at thirteen tiil twentynine years old
in bible??

and the second is when the first time jesus was potreted?
and who was his photograper?
what kind of brand of camera was used?

the third is.. is jesus the GOD OR human being?

did jesus ever give instruction to pray on sunday?

is there in bible if jesus one hundred present human and one hundred present GOD?

is there in bible said if you believe jesus as the GOD you will be entered to the heaven

1 need your answer as fast as possible..ok

Sita said...

gentleness..."without violence" gentle rains falling on a parched and cracked soil...great post...thank you..