What is the first word that comes to mind when you hear the words — Fruit of the Spirit? Love? Joy? Peace? Patience? Kindness?
How many of you immediately said, “gentleness!”
I think one of the most overlooked of the fruit of the spirit is gentleness. I wonder why that is?
I remember when Ben was a little guy (and kind of rough still), I would teach him to touch softly by taking his hand in mine, touching my own cheek, while speaking the word, “gentle.” I was not necessarily attempting to instill a trait of the heart, but simply trying to avoid the painful consequence of being hit in the face by a baby who didn’t know his own strength. But, somewhere between the ages of 1 and 13 we stopped discussing the word gentle so much, having moved on to kindness and self-control.
I thought a word study on gentle might help us to understand why God would list this one with all of those other important character traits necessary for those of us who wish to be in right relationship with Christ.
If you’re unsure about what it means to do a word study, or why I do them, take a peek back at A is for Attentive. I explain more there.
Today’s word for study is GENTLENESS.
Key Word Definitions:
Genteel — polite; well-bred; easy and graceful in manners or behavior; polite; refined
Temper — calmness of mind particularly with regard to the passions and affections
Disposition — natural constitution of the mind; inclination; propensity
Meek — mild of temper; not easily provoked or irritated; yielding; humble
Respectable — possessing the worth or qualities which deserve or command respect; worthy of esteem and honor
Gentleness Defined in My Own Words:
Gentleness is the tendency to be calm, humble, graceful, kind and tender in all situations, including those where passions might tempt one to be irritated or easily provoked. Gentleness brings about respect and honor from others.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)
A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. (Proverbs 15:1)
Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. (1 Timothy 6:11)
Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. (Galatians 6:1)
Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (Matthew 11:29)
I found it fascinating to discover that the word “gentleman” refers back to one who is well-bred, born or a good family, or of a respectable birth. When I think of the word, “gentleman, ” I do have an image in my mind that fits that description. But somewhere, the words, gentleman and gentleness part ways in society today.
I wonder if we don’t speak of gentleness as much as some of the other fruit of the Spirit because we don’t necessarily want to be gentle — especially when we feel anger or passion. It is expected that when we are angry, we will act out in a way that let’s someone know. We want it to be painfully obvious. To do otherwise is seen as wimpy or weak. This is especially true for men.
As a mom who is raising a man, it’s important to me that Ben is a gentleman in the true sense of the word, gentle with his words and actions, not hurtful or destructive. Just like when he was a little tyke and I didn’t want him to hit me in the face — today, I don’t want him to figuratively (or literally) punch someone else in the face. For it is true that he is born of a good family — the family of God. And as his mom, I want him to represent that well.
Jesus showed us plenty examples for how to make a point without yielding power over others in a way that is controlling, manipulative, or hurtful. Jesus was gentle with the woman caught in adultery, with the Pharisees, and he is gentle with us.
Gentleness is a character trait of God. One we take on as we follow Christ and his examples. It is as necessary as self-control, patience, love, and joy. Gentleness is restorative. It helps to dispel anger. Gentleness desires that no harm is done to others. To be gentle brings about honor and respect from others. Isn’t this what we want for ourselves and our children?
Pray for God to give you the fruit of gentleness, especially in those situations where it may be the hardest to be gentle (this might be the most obvious as a wife and mom, yes?). We must allow the Holy Spirit to show us the gentleness of Jesus, and to transform us into that likeness if we are to set the example and teach it to our children.