Written by: Stephanie Petska
“But the fruit of the Spirit is…gentleness…” Galatians 5:22-23 NIV
What comes to mind when you hear the word gentle? I think of softly caressing the fur of a pet or carefully handling a fragile heirloom, trying not to drop or damage it in any way. Gentleness can be a way we carry our voice, our bodies, our spirit.
Ephesians 4:2 says, “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” (NIV). My NIV Study Bible interprets it as this: “When we see faults in fellow believers, we should be patient and gentle. Is there someone whose actions or personality really annoys you? Rather than dwelling on that person’s weaknesses or looking for faults, pray for him or her. Then do even more – spend time together and see if you can learn to like him or her.”
Sounds to me like gentleness requires a wee bit of humility, putting one’s own pride aside, and having true concern for others and their well-being.
I honestly feel I’ve always had a gentle spirit, wanting to embrace the positive or evoke peace in every situation. The loss of my son made me starkly aware of the fact that many people are suffering in this world. And how gentleness from others – being kind, having a careful approach, speaking soft words, extending a hand of grace, loving the unlovable – can be the light someone desperately needs in dark moments.
“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” – Proverbs 15:1
When gentleness isn’t present, chaos and emotional entanglement leave me with an unsettled heart. Those are the moments I try to “fix” things, having conversations in my mind, trying to rationalize or figure it out on my own.
And the once gentle spirit is replaced with rage, bitterness, cynicism, and sometimes even self-pity. But, when I give it to Him through prayer, I find an immediate peace that replaces the ick that resided in my heart.
I remember a time when an individual hurt our extended family with actions that one might call deceitful. So many of us were hurt and angry over it and once again I found myself trying to “fix” the situation in my head and in my heart.
When I stopped and prayed over this person and the situation, grace found a way to poke a hole through my pride, softening my heart, and allowing gentleness back in. It’s as if Jesus was opening up his arms and saying, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, 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 ” (Matthew 11:28-29 NIV).
Jesus wants us to experience the fruit of the Spirit because it greatly blesses our lives and the lives of those we encounter. Without His gentleness, we end up rigid, prideful, and frustrated. But with it, we are able to rest in Him and shine the light we are called to shine.