The Fading Regard For Gentleness

daddy-loves-me-648389-mI kind of wonder how many people will read the title of this post, then move on to something else. Our society doesn’t think much about or of gentleness. On the other hand, God values gentleness.

In Matthew 11 Jesus declares Himself to be gentle (v 29), and in Galatians 5 Paul informs us that gentleness is a fruit produced by the Holy Spirit (v 23).

Further, he tells believers that the quality of gentleness may be the tipping point that turns around someone in opposition when correcting them. In other words, even in conflict, gentleness is a necessary attribute:

the Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will. (2 Tim. 2:24-25, emphasis added)2

In writing to the Colossians, Paul specifically mentioned gentleness as a quality which marks those who have been chosen of God, holy and blameless. To the Ephesians, he wrote about unity, and gentleness was one of the traits he mentioned as integral to the process.

Peter identifies “the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit which is precious in the sight of God” as a woman’s internal adornment, more important than her external appearance (1 Peter 3:4).

Later in the chapter he names gentleness as a necessary ingredient in giving an answer, an apologia, for the hope that is in us.

Despite God’s clear esteem for gentleness, western culture seems to hold this trait in less and less regard.

More than once I’ve heard or read that what editors are looking for, particularly in young adult literature, is “a kick-ass heroine”—a teenage woman who is “forceful, vigorous, and aggressive” (Oxford-American Dictionary). They aren’t mentioning gentleness.

Meanwhile, guys are supposed to “man up” and are to show by their tough, fearless, and aggressive behavior that they have man parts.

Even the feminization of men has not included a return to the quality of gentleness. Sensitivity? Sure, metrosexual guys can be sensitive, especially if it means they are easily offended. But gentleness is not on the desired list of attributes.

For many, gentleness equates with weakness, and therein lies the problem. No one wants to be weak today. We deserve great things, the best, actually, or so the media tells us over and over. Women want to be empowered, and too often those with few resources feel entitled to the resources of others.

Coaches tell young children to take the word “can’t” from their vocabulary. Parents and teachers tell kids they can do or become whatever they wish. No one is weak. No one is less. We’ll get where we want to go if we Just Do It.

And “it” has nothing to do with gentleness. It has to do with working and striving and pushing to be the best. Ironic since every soccer kid wins a trophy, but we still all want to be at the top.

Our talk show hosts are blunt and crass. Our top athletes are boastful and vain. Our entertainers are vulgar and selfish. Politicians or those in their campaign smear one another at least as often as they tout their own virtues. Business men wheedle and manipulate and arm-twist to get the best deal they can, no matter who they hurt in the process.

Those out front and most visible in our society seem bent on getting what they want at all costs.

And gentleness?

Who’s telling the banker or salesman or editor or Senator or airport screener to treat people with gentleness?

Paul in 1 Thessalonians described how he and those with him presented the gospel when they first arrived in their city:

just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who examines our hearts. For we never came with flattering speech, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed—God is witness—nor did we seek glory from men, either from you or from others, even though as apostles of Christ we might have asserted our authority. But we proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children. (2:4-7, emphasis added)

So I wonder, if Paul could go into an environment which he described as filled with “much opposition” and eschew his authority as an apostle, choosing instead to treat the people tenderly like a nursing mother cares for her children, might there be more power in the trait than meets the eye, no matter what propaganda we see splashed over the media?

Think about it. Jesus said He is gentle. Was Jesus weak? Hardly. But He knew when to touch a leper to heal and when to turn over moneychangers’ tables in the temple. He knew when to blast the Pharisees with imprecations and when to take children in His arms to bless them.

The key to gentleness, then, is actually knowing when to harness strength and when to keep power at bay.

Have you ever seen football players spike a ball? Many do as part of their celebration after scoring a touchdown.

Have you seen them spike a baby? Of course not. Sometimes after a Super Bowl win, a dad will bring his family down to the field with him, and he’ll carry a son or daughter in his arms, but spike them? With their children, these burly men who make their living by hitting each other restrain the power they have.

Or they used to. Is it any wonder with the disregard our society shows toward gentleness that we have had an increase in domestic violence?

When we stop honoring what God honors, quite frankly we should expect society to be confused, at best, and more likely, increasingly harmful.

Published in: on November 12, 2014 at 6:25 pm  Comments (2)  
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