Gentleness is evidence of a life filled with Creator God. The Apostle Paul wrote to Jesus’ followers in Galatia that the Spirit of God would be expressed through their lives in “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23). This sounds a bit overwhelming – maybe impossible – but God never intended for us to do it alone. As I hear frequently from the younger generation, this is a “God thing.”
By definition, a gentle person is non-threatening, accepting, considerate and soft-spoken. They are the kind of person we want to be near when we are hurting or in trouble. They will not overlook our mistakes but will value us as a person and want to hear our story. They are honest while showing understanding.
Certain people come to mind when we think of gentleness: mothers, shepherds, caregivers, and pediatric specialists. They have conviction, know how to facilitate discipline, and correction, and will sometimes allow us to experience pain when appropriate. They do it all with tenderness.
Evidence of gentleness does not exclude the importance of being direct in our relationships. Gentleness does not avoid reality but presents it in a way that is not harsh. A painful medical test result can be explained truthfully but gently. The facts can be presented along with any positive possibilities. “You are terminally ill and have a short time to live” can include encouragement as to how to make the best use of the days ahead. For people who have a spiritual outlook, it helps to be reminded of God’s healing Grace and perfect timing.
The Bible presents Creator God as the balance of directness and gentleness. Isaiah chapter 40 tells us that He is a powerful controller, but verse 11 describes Him as the “gentle shepherd.” Jesus showed the same combination of righteous anger toward evil and tender acceptance of hurting people. He is described as being “grace and truth” (John 1:14).
Humans tend to be creatures of extremes. Some will be gentle to the point of overlooking wrongs that need to be corrected. They enable poor choices to continue where direct intervention should be offered. Others seem able to look away from hardship, saying, “It is their problem, not mine, and they need to deal with it.” Often, there is a fine line between helping and enabling that is difficult to determine.
In my earlier years, I prided myself on being able to “tell it like it is” – often without grace or tenderness. I hurt some people with this attitude and had to try to mend broken relationships. As I grow older, I find myself more tender – sometimes to a fault. Something about aging mellows us if we allow it. Balance is so very important but difficult for some of us to maintain.
I am reminded that shepherds use both the rod of correction and the staff of guidance. Sheep need direct intervention when they wander away into danger. And they need tender care and nurturing when they are hurting. The Bible calls Jesus “the Good Shepherd.” We need to learn more about Him and follow His example. He is always a balance of “gentle directness.”