Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Building Character: Gentleness

 As a family, we are studying a character trait each week, and are beginning with the Fruits of the Spirit. We are just getting started, so up until now, we have talked about Love, Joyfulness, Peaceable, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, and Faithfulness.  If you want more information on the nuts and bolts of what we are doing, you can read how to get started on this post.

As we strive to put on Christ and imitate His character, we take up the challenge of adopting a spirit of GENTLENESS.

Matthew 11:28 - 30 -

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

GENTLENESS vs. Harshness
Showing personal care and concern in meeting the need of others.

Philippians 4:5 - "Let your gentleness be known to all men."

This definition gave me pause.  It isn't the definition that first came to my mind, but the more I looked into it, the more I came to agree with it.  According to dictionary.com, the first definition of gentleness was "kindly".  When I looked up the Greek word used in the fruits of the spirit, I noticed that the same word was more often translated "kindness".  Gentleness is usually considered to be a feminine trait, and indeed, I'm sure it comes more naturally for most females, but it should be encouraged in our young men too.  Both Jesus and the apostles were described as gentle, and Paul admonishes Timothy that, "A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition"(2 Timothy 2:24-25)

What a challenge we have on our hands to teach our children to have the strength of the Lord, and to speak out with boldness, but yet to be clothed in humility and to speak with kindness and gentleness.

I first taught my boys about gentleness when they were infants.  Instead of roughly grabbing at an animal's fur, I showed them how to softly stroke and animal speaking to them in low tones, "gentle, gentle".  When they are around an infant, I encourage gentleness - speaking and singing gently and softly holding the baby's hand (if her mama says it is alright!).  These things do not come naturally to my boys.

Gentle speech does not come always naturally either.  They imitate what they hear from their father and I which is usually gentle, but when the monster of selfishness takes over their hearts or anger overcomes them, the harsh words and actions come out.  We remind them of this verse:

Proverbs 15:1 - "A gentle answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger."

This week's Bible story:  Luke 10:25-37
The parable of the Good Samaritan.
So often, we skip right to the story, but I think we can find great insight for parenting in Jesus' gentle dialogue with the lawyer that was questioning him.  Jesus answer's his question with a question, gently leading the lawyer towards the correct answer.  Even when the lawyer continued to question, Jesus answered him with patience, leading him to the Truth like the Good Shepherd that He is.

When the lawyer asked, "What shall I do to inherit eternal life?"  Jesus told him that correct answer was:
  • "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind" 
  • "You shall love your neighbor as yourself
Let us encourage our children to remember these two commandments.  If we do these, then we will be His faithful disciples.

When the lawyer further questions Jesus, asking, "Who is my neighbor?"  Jesus answered with the parable of the Good Samaritan.  Emphasize the personal, loving care and concern the Samaritan showed to the man who had been robbed and beaten.
  • When he saw him, he had compassion
  • He went to him and cleaned and bandaged his wounds
  • He set him on his own donkey (meaning that he now walked beside)
  • He brought him to an inn where he personally took care of him
  • He payed for the man's stay at the end from his own money
Jesus says that THIS is what it means to love our neighbor and that we must do likewise.  Humbling isn't it?  "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." 

Do you, like me, feel the sting of some of those times that you failed to show love to a neighbor?  Maybe I seem so very holy by the things that I write on my blog, but I'm not.  I fail.  I try, but I fail just like everyone else.  One time stands out to me so, so strongly.  I was getting my children out of the car to go grocery shopping when a woman came to me in the parking lot and said her car had broken down and she asked if she could borrow a cell phone.  My immediate answer was that no, I didn't have one.  Because I hadn't had one up until a few weeks before and I forgot I had one now.  And then I remembered that I did have one, but that it is my emergencies only phone where I pay by the minute and I said, "No, not really."  And she walked away.  And I felt terrible because I remembered that for years, I, myself had been living without a cell phone with an unreliable car.  It could have so easily been me, stranded in a parking lot having to beg for the use of a phone.  And what would I have wished someone would have done for me?

Well, the story doesn't end there.  The woman asked another lady across the parking lot that was now loading groceries in the back of her car.  The kindly woman said, "Oh of course, here you go."  And she handed over her phone while she finished unloading her cart.  By this time, I had unbuckled my children and was heading to the store.  Since it was Aldi, we had a quarter ready to put in so we could borrow a cart.  As I passed by, the woman that lent the cell phone called out to me and said, "Here, take my cart."  I said, "Oh, I'm really alright, I have a quarter."  She said, "I want you to have it," and wished me a good day with a smile.  I felt those burning coals of fire on my head.  (And I know she hadn't meant them that way!)  I felt so very small as I did my shopping that day.

Who had been the Good Samaritan?  Not me!  I was the one professing to serve God like the priest and the Levite, but hardened my heart when asked to share with a person in need.  I don't know why my initial reaction was so closed and selfish.  Fear?  Probably.  I think it revealed a lot about my heart.  I know I have learned my lesson though.  I'm sure God will provide another test for me someday.  I pray that I have enough love in my heart to share with my neighbor by then.

  • Who is your neighbor? 
  • What sort of things can we do to help a person in need?
  • With children, I think we need to also emphasize that if they see a child in need that they can help, they should do it.  But if they see an adult that needs help, they should get mama or daddy to help them help.  You just can't be too careful when it comes to safety and your children.
  • When you are in a conflict with someone, what can you do to be a peacemaker?  (Use gentleness - both words and actions!)
  • It would be helpful to role-play some situations for this.  In our house, the perpetual problem is both children wanting the same toy.  Over and over again, we talk them through whether the toy can be shared, traded, or if the two can take turns.  I'm hoping all of this practice with one another will help them handle other playmates someday!

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  1. That failure of kindness/gentleness will stay with you for the rest of your life, but it will yield many more times of choosing rightly, I am sure. Love to you!

  2. Thank you for the encouragement. One of those moments I could just re-wind and do it all over.


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