“Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near.” (Phil. 4-5)
What do you think of when you hear the word gentle? Softness? Tenderness? Mildness? As one of God’s Fruit of the Spirit it means all these plus other definitions we might not relate to spiritual gentleness, such as forgiveness, mercy, forbearance, and clemency. It also means humility—the absence of pride, boastfulness, superiority, anger, revenge, and grudges. I don’t know about you, but for me this puts a different spin on why gentleness is a Fruit.
Far from simply being nice or quiet, God’s gentleness isn’t passive. It takes active courage and strength to extend gentleness of this definition to others. Left unchecked, our egos don’t want to give up holding the center of our thoughts and actions. We prefer to act from our hurts, displeasures, and defenses because acting from God’s gentleness challenges our opinions of and how we see and treat others. It forces us to behold them in God’s light rather than through our tainted impressions of them.
Forgiving and offering mercy and clemency, especially to those who have wronged us, takes hard, intentional spiritual work. Yet isn’t that what Jesus exemplified? Showing mercy, forgiveness, and understanding to those whom society scorned and those who worked against him and his mission? Isn’t it what he expects of us?
If we ask God to open our eyes and hearts to gentleness the Holy Spirit will guide us, making our way easier by replacing our ego-driven behaviors with forgiveness, acceptance, forbearance, and love. As we go into the upcoming season of busy celebrations that too often bring as much stress as joy, let’s remember to ask God to help us be gentle with both others and ourselves.