Imagine you’ve had a long day at work. Nothing seemed to go well. You arrived home to start your second shift. You ask your children to do their homework while you get dinner ready.
Suddenly you hear bickering and fussing. No one seems to mind you. You gently call to remind the children to start their homework. You call out again, still no response; what do you do?
Let me guess: after you’ve called two more times, gentleness goes out the window. Now you are yelling at them out of frustration. I remember those days well… when my children were younger. It wasn’t always a pretty sight… gentleness often took the back seat… sigh!
Or maybe it’s being gentle with yourself. Have you ever struggled with the same issue over and over? Perhaps you’ve determined to start a new self-care routine or wake up early to spend time with the Lord? Maybe you’ve told yourself to forgive that offense, but you find it so difficult to let go?
You are not alone. Many times, we struggle because we live in a fallen world. But the good news is our Heavenly Father is gentle because He knows your heart and mine. He puts up with our shenanigans while gently guiding us to the desired outcome if we are willing.
What is gentleness?
The quality of being kind, tender, or mild-mannered. It is not weakness but strength under control.
By nature, God is Gentle. Here is how James puts it (James 3:7)
God honors our choices and gently waits for us to come around. He shows no partiality. But He sees through our bad attitudes and mean thoughts even when we pretend to be gentle on the inside.
In what ways can we grow in gentleness?
Jesus is the ultimate example of gentleness…meek, humble, understanding, not harsh, reactionary, and welcoming to the out-casts and downtrodden.
A gentle and quiet spirit is so precious to God. 1 Peter 3:4.
1) Allow God to Lead You
If you and I allow God’s Spirit to lead us, we will grow in gentleness. As we follow his example of humility and gentleness, we will find rest for our weary souls. God’s desire is that we are gentle both inside and outside. Matt 11:29 puts it this way,
Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Matt 11:29.
God leads us without being harsh, even when we go in the wrong direction. He gently directs us back onto the right path. His heart toward us is kind, humble, and gentle. But we have to choose to follow Him.
I love the way Isaiah 40 describes God’s gentleness. Like a shepherd, He will feed his flock, carry the lambs in his arms, holding them close to his heart. He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young. Isa 40:11.
Do you desire to grow in the fruit of gentleness? Ask God for it.
2) Choosing Words Wisely
Have you ever been the recipient of harsh words spoken in anger? Did I hear you say ouch! That hurts!
According to Proverbs 15:1, A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare. Prov 15:1.
Growing a heart of gentleness means we are sensitive and intentional with our words when dealing with others. We choose our words carefully and remember, it’s not only what we say but also how we say it matters.
Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit—you choose. Prov. 18:21.
Our words can hurt, or they can heal. Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. Prov 12:18.
3) Seek to Understand in Relationships
Relationships are messy. Most of the time, lack of gentleness is at the root of the problems in relationships. Often we allow pride to take over, and when this happens, it is a recipe for offense and broken relationships.
Another word for gentleness is humility, the attitude of helping others instead of feeling like we are better than them.
Don’t let selfishness and prideful agendas take over. Embrace true humility and lift your heads to extend love to others. Phil 2:3.
Because God is gentle with you and me, we, too, can be gentle with others. We can restore broken relationships with gentleness. Our soft words show people they have value whether we agree or disagree with them (Gal 6:1).
7 Practical tips for cultivating a gentle heart.
I have several challenging relationships in my life, and gentleness is not one of my strong traits. Like you, I am a work in progress and daily leaning into the Holy Spirit to help me grow a gentle heart. Do you want to grow a gentle heart? Here are 7 practical tips:
What steps are you willing to take to develop a gentle heart? Share in the comments.
Cultivating a Heart of Gentleness is part of our current series on Fruit of the Spirit.