(A series about the Fruit of the Spirit, Galatians 5)
My Bible reading plan has me in the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John). Knowing it was my turn to write about gentleness and having already thought through some things, it was a natural connection to make between my thoughts and the actions of Jesus as told by these four authors. So first, think along with me about steps we can take toward being gentle, and then consider along with me how Jesus took these steps in three different scenes from the book of John.
Some things I know that produce the fruit of gentleness in me when I do them are listening, checking my emotions, and putting myself in other’s shoes.
Very few things put us in a better state of humility than keeping our mouths shut and listening. Avoiding the temptations of interrupting or talking over others leans us into gentleness. Silence welcomes calmness and averts hotheadedness, in both parties.
We all have triggers, which means, like it or not, we all have emotions. Knowing our triggers that might lead to harshness is vital to checking our emotions. Having a plan when the trigger goes off will enhance our chances of responding gently. With these triggers, maintaining a gentle spirit through all emotions can seem impossible. But let’s be honest, sometimes a situation calls for bold, powerful reactions. These are rare situations for most people. Our reactions don’t have to be mean-spirited or destructive. If you find yourself feeling like every situation ends in bold reactions, it’s definitely a sign that gentleness is missing.
Put Yourself in Their Shoes:
Over the years, this discipline has produced gentleness in me when I’ve most needed it. But it doesn’t come naturally to me. Does it you? So how do you nurture putting yourself in someone’s shoes if it isn’t how you’re bent? A few things come to mind:
- You can’t be the focus of every moment or thought.
- While listening, refrain from thinking how you’re going to respond or how you feel about the person or the situation.
- Force yourself to do things that are out of your norm or that are uncomfortable but represent other’s reality, such as volunteer at a shelter, pause and talk with a homeless person, walk somewhere when you could have taken transportation, go without eating, or live on a fixed income.
- Meditate on the specific dynamics of a person’s life that impact their perspectives, such as family of origin, education, employment, or religious background.
Jesus did these things very well. Take for example his interactions with three people as told by John.
John 3, Nicodemus
He listened to Nicodemus questioning and trying to understand. He checked his emotions by not dismissing him as another Pharisee who might be after him. He put himself in his shoes as a Jewish leader working out his beliefs about who Jesus was.
John 4, Samaritan woman
He actually started this conversation. His gentleness is seen in that move alone. He listened to her question his motives, his common sense, his culture understanding, and her attempts to distract him from her story. He checked his emotions when she tried to challenge him as a Jew, more than once. He put himself in her shoes by recognizing her situation and her desire for something different.
John 11, the village of Bethany
This village was hurting. They were mourning the death of their neighbor and family member, Lazarus. Even in his delay, which no one understood, he ultimately showed gentleness. He showed all gentleness is found in the purpose of glorifying the Father. Through his listening to the mourners, checking his own emotions, and putting himself in their shoes, he turned hearts of sadness and unbelief into joy and conviction.
There is power in gentleness. May we be gentle like Jesus.