What Is Gentleness?
Gentleness : [ < Old French gentil (courteous, noble) < Latin gentilis (of the same family or clan) < assumed Indo-European root gene- (procreation, birth, family). The Old French word (and thus Middle English) inferred that someone had a quality of meekness (Mod. Eng. 'genteel') that was supposed to be characteristic of noble birth or the ruling class - setting aside for the moment their institutionalized ruthlessness. The word "kindness" developed in a like manner, from the same Indo-European root, but through the Germanic side.]
Having the quality of being gentle or tender. It's the noun form of adjective 'gentle': considerate in disposition, mild in mood, soft, tender; well-managed, not sudden or rash or angry, taking care not to harm others. The word field of 'gentleness' includes meekness, tenderness, careful, chivalrous, and kindness. The Greek term in Galatians 5:22 is prautes, which is about mildness or meekness of spirit, taking care not to cause harm. The Hebrew word is 'anī, which refers mostly to the poor and the humble. Neither the Greek nor Hebrew words imply that the upper class is better, but somehow the English word developed that implication. However, that part of the English word's meaning has been fading out over the past two centuries.
The Bible says this about gentleness:
- Jesus was gentle.
- Be gentle when restoring a follower to fellowship.
- Gentleness is a way of life within a marriage.
- Pursue gentleness!
- God treats us gentle by forgiving us.
- While it's fair to say that the apostle Paul was sometimes quite difficult to deal with, he says to the church in Thessaloniki that he could have asserted apostolic authority, but instead was gentle as a mother with her babies. In 2 Timothy (2:24-26), he instructs Timothy to correct his opponents gently.
- A gentle word turns away wrath.
The point is that God wants us to be gentle.
Gentleness As A Fruit
'Gentleness' is an interesting fruit of the spirit. It has a direct tie-in to Jesus, too, for didn't he speak of the meek inheriting the earth? In the Revelation, John looks for a lion but finds a Lamb. Like the other spiritual fruit, gentleness is an aspect of God's character which God's followers take on as they follow Christ. The fruit of 'gentleness' isn't about being wishy-washy, indecisive, unassertive, or just plain wimpy. Instead, it's a refusal to use power to harm anyone, an unwillingness to cut and slash at people, wounding them for vengeance, spite or control. Gentleness desires that no harm be done. There are gentle ways to be bold, non-violent ways to stand up for what is right, and non-manipulative ways to lead and to convince. But it is not human nature to be gentle. It goes beyond 'instinct', or 'education', or 'society's influence'. We are simply not gentle creatures. Certainly not males, despite the term 'gentleman'. Males are quick with the fists, the knives, and the guns. Women have historically been more gentle, but that's a relative matter; they have their own ways of being vicious and destructive. Hostility is even a trait of our families - parents getting angry and abusive with their children, spouses being especially cruel to each other. Today's world rewards hostility and going to an extreme. If we are to bear the fruit of gentleness, we need the Spirit to give us the ability to be gentle when it's hardest to be that way.
Gentleness is more than a personal disposition. It's an outgrowth of love. It is when you care enough to choose not to be harsh, rash, angry, or rough. Gentleness is when you learn and use the best way to hold an egg or a butterfly. A gentle person knows better than to harm others, and so chooses to act in a way that does not. A gentle person does not seek to make other people angry. Gentleness may lose battles, but it helps win the overall struggles. A gentle response tends to create fewer enemies and more friends. Spiritual fruits all tie together: in this case, self-control overcomes impulsive reactions, which are usually not gentle. Gentle care grows the ability to bear suffering or disadvantage for a long time. Those who have an attitude of kindness (looking for ways to benefit others) will treat others gently.
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"As we come to grips with our own selfishness and stupidity, we make friends with the impostor and accept that we are impoverished and broken and realize that, if we were not, we would be God. The art of gentleness toward ourselves leads to being gentle with others -- and is a natural prerequisite for our presence to God in prayer."
---- Brennan Manning, Abba's Child: The Cry of the Heart for Intimate Belonging