Has anyone ever spoken to you about needing gentleness in your life? Me neither, though I wish they had. In my younger years, especially, I so desperately needed it! With my perfectionist tendencies, I tended to push both myself and loved ones pretty hard. I often needed someone, some friend honest enough to tell me, “Hey, loosen up. Let Christ’s gentleness into your life. You need it!”
I needed a Little Brother, like in the following story, to silence me with a bit of sweetness.
“Two little boys were once rolling a hoop over the frozen ground. And in running carelessly after it, Gerald, the younger, being behind, came in contact with his brother Thomas. Both fell down with violence, the younger on top of the elder.
Thomas was severely bruised, and rose up in a terrible passion. He scolded Gerald, in the most offensive words he could think of, and then began to beat him.
Instead of crying out, or striking back, the little fellow put his hand into his pocket hurriedly, fumbled about among his treasures. And drawing out a stick of candy, thrust it into Thomas’s mouth, even while he was scolding and beating him.
Thomas instantly stopped, and looked confused and ashamed. And thus his wrath was turned aside by the spirit of gentleness which his younger brother manifested.” (The Biblical Illustrator, in the Public domain.)
Unfortunately, many churches lack real mentoring. And we’re left to absorb Christian character as best we can.
Sort of like osmosis, which works well with liquids. Meaning that two liquids will unite simply by being together, particularly if one of them is water. But it doesn’t work well with learning. I have a hunch I could have spent a great deal of time with Einstein, without ever becoming a mathematical, scientific genius like him! (I still count on my fingers!)
And the same holds true with character training. Sure, having a good example goes a long way. But we also need teaching and practical instruction. And sometimes we even need a friend like the little brother. Who will take the time to show us a better way.
Gentleness, or meekness. Or showing indulgence toward the weak and erring. It is patient suffering of injuries without feeling a spirit of revenge. And the entire opposite of anger. “So what?” you think. “I already know that!” Yeah, so did I.
And I also knew that I didn’t want to be an angry, vengeful, short-tempered person. So why did I so easily fall into such negative behavior?
And then, I found an answer in Matthew Henry’s Commentary, on the fruit of the Spirit. I love both his description of gentleness, and how he links it to how we view others.
Such a sweetness of temper, and especially towards our inferiors, as disposes us to be affable and courteous, and easy to be entreated when any have wronged us.” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary; in the Public domain.)
Showing meekness, courtesy, and sweetness even to those we consider inferior.
Think about that a moment. The elder brother in our story obviously felt superior. His little brother was just a thoughtless, bumbling idiot to have run into him like that. But the elder brother, of course, would have watched where he was going. Would have left enough distance to stop in time.
Can’t you just imagine the mean, nasty things he said? I can. I’ve been there, much to my shame. Because “such action was necessary,” or so I convinced myself. After all, someone had to set others straight. And obviously, as I was far superior (in whatever way I seemed to think), the job fell to me.
It’s interesting that in the teaching on the fruit of the Spirit, we’re not told to treat others as they deserve.
But rather as our equals. As failing, faulty people, just like us. Who need to have us show them the same compassion, gentleness, and love we’d like shown to us.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another, (Galatians 5:22-26).
Let’s not become conceited. We’re all on the same level. We all goof. We all mess up. We all hurt and injure others. And remembering that can also help us remember to treat others more gently. Even our supposed inferiors.
Oh, but could I ask a personal favor of all who live around here? Could you start carrying some candy in your pocket? And stuff it in my mouth for those times I forget and am about to utter words I’ll surely regret?
We all need a sweet reminder sometimes. Want some candy?