Posted by: Postordinandy | June 24, 2010

Nothing stronger.

And so we come to the penultimate fruit of the spirit: gentleness.

(this is meant to be a butterfly!)

Gentle is a funny word, bringing with it as it does a variety of meanings and interpretations, depending on tribal affiliation and custom. It is associated with words like meek, mild, soft, and caring. It is joined to other words, like ‘man’, to indicate implicit or explicit codes of conduct, manners and consideration: in years past, a ‘gentleman’ was someone who had earned the right to such a title by his social standing and behaviour. “A gentleman would be ashamed should his deeds not match his words” (Kong Fu Zi).

We found a definition for gentleness that we considered to be helpful, that of active kindness, and reflected that often gentleness is manifested when one is able to combine appropriate restraint with kindness. Gentleness is not standing back and hoping for the best, nor is it to simply cave to the others’ demands and opinions; rather it is a state where compassion and action combine. Gentleness nurtures the goodness in a situation; it finds the space and time to allow others to grieve; it corrects and challenges in ways that highlight the best in the other, while showing alternative perspectives and possible actions.

“There is nothing stronger in the world than gentleness.” – Han Suyin

‘Gentle Jesus, meek and mild’, (an image of Christ that is popular, if not entirely accurate), was the same Jesus who turned the tables in the temple and used strong language when refering to some of the religious leaders of his day.

So how can we be gentle?

As with our reflections on the other fruit, it is obvious that we can only hope to grow in this area with the help of the Spirit itself, and also that growing the other aspects of the fruit will create an environment where gentleness can flourish: gentleness is best expressed when one is patient with, and has love for the other, for example.

To exercise gentleness is to take risks: it is easy to be hurt by being gentle, others do not always respond in the same way. It is not fashionable – our society demands and expects us to be hard edged in our relationships with others, gentleness is often mistaken as naivety. To offer gentleness often means to take the initiative, to make a pre-emptive strike for peace in a hard situation, or to offer compassion to the unloved and unlovely.

Perhaps most challengingly for some of us, gentleness demands that we are aware of the plank in our own eye and think of others before ourselves.

The great news is that God is incredibly gentle with us; and patient, and kind, and…

He is a true gentleman, never forcing His way on us; allowing us time and space to explore the true implications of a relationship with Him; nudging us in the directions He would like us to go, rather than pushing.


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