Gentleness, much more than a personality trait

Posted on March 6, 2017 · Posted in Godward Orientation, Parenting

white-tiger-cub

Gentleness is probably not on the top of your list of important, immediate goals to accomplish. Perhaps this is because you see gentleness primarily as a personality trait. This is the point where gentleness is often misunderstood. Gentleness is all about the wise use of power. This is huge for parents.

God’s purpose for each of us is to continue growing in maturity in order to become more like Christ (Ephesians 4:13). Christ describes himself as being gentle. Gentleness is part of the Holy Spirit’s fruit that each of us is to pursue. Gentleness may be described as the careful, planned use of the appropriate force to accomplish biblical objectives. The mother tiger in the photo is using just enough force to carry her cub. This powerful animal is being gentle!

Therefore gentleness is always appropriate, even and especially, when discipline is called for. For example, one of your children is angry with someone. Gentleness is the weapon that God calls you to deploy according to Proverbs 15:1:

A gentle / soft answer turns back wrath,
but a harsh word stirs up anger.

Here is one leading scholar’s commentary on this verse:
“The Hebrew word for gentle here denotes the quality of being tender, soft, delicate in substance. Combined with “answer” it connotes a response that in both substance and style soothes and comforts the listener. Wrath refers to anger’s inner emotional heat and excitement, to its outward expression.
Soft speech is like oil on bruised skin to soften and heal it; painful speech has the effect of oil poured on fire.”

Gentleness is designed to address the angry, emotional outbursts that occur in your relationships. It is for the conflicts you encounter each day at home! Failure to practice gentleness only encourages more anger and strife. Gentleness is not being weak, but strong. It means using the words that are appropriate to bring peace. Since this the Holy Spirit’s purpose for gentle words then it is his power we seek to use, not our own.

Instead of being frustrated or lashing back at the unkind words of your spouse or child, trust God and offer a gentle response. Let the other person know that you love them and understand what they are upset about it. With gentle words offer to pray with them and be quick to recognize how you may have contributed to the problem. If someone seems unreasonable, follow the teaching of James 3:17 and be gentle and be open to reason yourself before you demand it of others.

Gentleness, it is not simply a personality trait. God calls all of us to gentleness. It is part of what it means to become mature in Christ.

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Jay Younts
John A. (Jay) Younts is the Shepherd Press blogger, and is a ruling elder serving at Redeemer Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church in Moore, South Carolina. He has written Everyday Talk, Everyday Talk About Sex & Marriage, Finding the Right Track, the In Touch With Paul stewardship series, and What About War. He has studied and taught about biblical childrearing for 30 years. He and his late wife Ruth have five adult children.