In the ancient world, gentleness was not a quality that was highly praised. Aristotle believed that gentleness was somewhere in between aggression and apathy. In a time and culture when power, strength, and dominance were the valued, gentleness didn’t have a place among those virtues. However, gentleness is the ability to endure things without aggression. It shows itself by responding with softness, and controlling our tongue and temper. When we demonstrate gentleness toward others, we are aware that the person in front of us is another human being who has emotions and feelings, and most people will not respond great to harshness.
Jesus was a man who exemplified these qualities. Jesus was strong and powerful, and he was humble and gentle. As we seek to cultivate gentleness in our own lives, we seek to take on the characteristics of Christ - gentle, humble, compassionate, loving, strong, and firm. We can be gentle with people around us and not be apathetic like Aristotle believed. Gentleness is strong, firm, and clear, without aggression.
What does gentleness look like in our own lives? I admit, there have been many times in my life where my response is not gentle, but rather harsh and criticizing. When I catch myself in those moments, I try to stop, slow down, and rewind my actions.
Last night when my children were getting ready for bed, I found myself feeling irritable because it was past their bedtime. I know when my kids don’t get enough sleep, like most people, they will be cranky in the morning. So I was trying to push them to move faster, and when my son wasn’t able to move fast enough he began to cry. His response to me caused me to stop, because I recognized that my voice was not gentle, but rather harsh as I was trying to get him to bed. That was definitely not a proud moment in my life. But it’s moments like this that I am able to learn from, so hopefully next time I can respond with gentleness while still being firm so they get to bed.
What are the places in your life where you would like to see gentleness cultivated? Take a moment to close your eyes. Picture how you would like to see gentleness emerge in your life. As you picture this, take a deep inhale for for 5 seconds, and then exhale for 7 seconds. Continue this breathing for a few cycles. Now imagine your day today, how would you like to see gentleness show up today?
We all have room to become more gentle with the people around us. As we seek to cultivate gentleness in our lives, we will find more opportunities where we can practice it.