Archive for January, 2006

Gentleness

Posted in Devos on Friday, January 27, 2006 by drumsalot

I have been studying the fruits of the spirit for my personal devos lately. This is probably the fifth time I’ve studied them, and each time they seem to impact a little deeper into who I am. The concepts are simple, but putting them into practice is one of the hardest things to do, so I need a refresher course every couple of years. With things that are happening in my life and in the lives of close friends these days, studying gentleness has really impacted me, and I want to share some thoughts on what I’ve found through my devos.

For me, gentleness is one of the easiest of the fruits of the spirit to understand conceptually, but it is definitely not the easiest to put into action. I do my best to treat those I love tenderly, but often I am not as gentle as I should be. This is not to say I am rough with them or beat them or anything like that, rather it is to say that I often forget to check myself before shooting my mouth off or approaching someone, and I have hurt many people in my life by being quick to speak and slow to listen. Gentleness is a product of practice, patience, and effort, and a constant conscious push to maintain a gentle spirit and attitude regardless of the situation.

Let me make one thing very clear. God calls us constantly to a higher standard. The beautiful and most painful thing about that is though we can attain infinite levels above our present point, we can never reach the top until we are made perfect in Christ on the day we are with Him. This is the most beautiful truth regarding our salvation and growth in Christ. It also can be very frustrating. Gentleness, as with every other fruit of the spirit, is a trait which can only come from God Himself. The only way to become truly gentle is to surrender the gentle and the ungentle about yourself and let God affect the change in your heart. Only God can make such an amazing change in the heart of anyone weighed down by humanity in their genes. Which is everyone. So… What I’m trying to say is, while I am offering my thoughts about how we can work towards gentleness in our lives, the only way to truly attain the true spiritual fruit of gentleness, and not just dull down areas of your life, is to seek totally after God’s will and heart, and let Him work that miracle in your life.

Let me start with the very thing I am fighting to do in my own life right now… approach people in a fully Christ-like manner. To me there are three elements necessary as Christians when approaching anyone, whether a close friend, someone we are reaching out to, and even (especially) someone we don’t like or consider an enemy. Those elements are gentleness, love and respect. They are helpful in every aspect of approaching others, but I find that they are absolutely necessary when talking with others. I am often so eager to get a point across that I forget that I am not necessarily the only one that knows what I am talking about, and will often force a point or ignore a counterpoint, or…. and this is a kicker for me…. I will pretend to be listening while formulating my response or dissecting their point in my mind while they speak. This shows absolutely no respect, and is evidence of a lack of love in some form for the person I’m speaking with, and it leads to a lack of gentleness in my response because I have automatically placed myself on the offensive. I have only one solution to this: stop thinking, stop talking, and start listening. James 1:19 says “My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry” I have found that I am much gentler in my responses when I actually listen and hear what the other person is saying, because I can then understand their point and after considering their statement respond appropriately instead of aggressively.

In the book of Proverbs, Solomon goes nuts on how we use our mouths as Gods people. Proverbs 10 has 32 verses, 12 of which are about the dangers of the untamed mouth, and many verses throughout Proverbs equate loose and ungodly talk to a doorway for Satan to control parts of our lives. But throughout Proverbs, Solomon also directs us in how to close those doors and carefully use gentle words for good. Proverbs 12:18 says “Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” Proverbs 15:1 says “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Proverbs 29:20 says “Do you see a man who speaks in haste? There is more hope for a fool than for him.” Obviously God has a huge expectation for us as His people when it comes to how we conduct our words. We have a huge responsibility when it comes to our mouths, and we have to check every word that rolls through our brain before it reaches our mouths. We are not responsible for how people take what we say, just for how we say it. If what we say is wholesome, edifying, and done gently and according to what we feel God would have us say and the people on the receiving end still take offense or are somehow upset by what we say, that is between that person and God, and we have done our part by being in line with what God would have us do.

You may be wondering why for an expository on gentleness I choose to concentrate on our words when our world is filled to overflowing with violence and war. We only have to watch the news for 5 minutes to hear of a shooting or an abusive parent beating a child half to death. Don’t get me wrong, I hate violence. In my 13 years as an EMT I have had many responses to abuse, shootings, stabbings, and many other violent acts, and each one sickens me. I detest those who beat children and spouses, and there were several times I came face to face with parents who had beaten the snot out of 3 and 4 year olds over such things as a crayon drawing on a wall, or men who had severely beaten their wives because of such inane crap as over-cooking something. I wanted to bring it back on them a hundred times over and if it wasn’t for my badge on my chest and the duty and honor it bound me to, I probably would have done it. I have been to shootings over nothing except how one guy looked at another, or criticized his car, or said hi to his girlfriend, or some other junk, and have come under fire myself. These things all repulse me, but I feel they all find root in our language and attitudes towards each other when we talk. Our words hold great power. They can build up or tear down. Excessive words can aggravate and annoy, and too few words can hurt and leave people wondering and worrying about what wasn’t said. Gentleness and forethought about what comes from our mouth can erase a lot of pain and prevent a lot of hurt, and gentleness and forethought in our responses can erase a lot of anger and prevent a lot of arguments. It’s all about how we filter what comes out of our mouth.

I look at Proverbs 15:1 as a perfect reasoning for why I feel this way. “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” how incredibly true in my life. I think it works in a few ways. The obvious one is the easiest: “If you respond gently to me, I’ll be less likely to be nasty to you.” The second way is perhaps a little tougher: “My response must be gentle so I don’t make the other person any angrier.” The third is definitely the hardest, but I think if it can be understood and acted on, it can be life changing. It is: “I know that if I respond gently now, and keep responding gently, no matter what the other person says, I will not be provoked to answer in anger and I will not act in wrath, because my focus will be responding only with gentleness and treating the other person with gentleness, love, and respect.” It’s similar to the second, but so much deeper and implies a proactive approach instead of just rolling with the punches. The words you speak you can never get back, so I’ve decided to work my butt off to make each word that comes out of my mouth something I would want to give as a gift to God. Proverbs 17:27 says: “A man of knowledge uses words with restraint and a man of understanding is even tempered.” I think that pretty much sums it all up.

God is a gentle God with only our best on His heart. God detests all abuses and violence, and has called us to be as Christ is: a gentle servant with no motives except to further Gods kingdom and serve Him with every ounce of our being. Christ was an absolutely perfect example on the day of his death. He took all the abuse and torture then responded to those beating and cursing Him by loving them and asking God to forgive them and never striking back, but humbly and gently taking it all. Most likely none of us will ever face crucifixion or even just the preliminary beating He faced, yet we all find it so hard to be gentle and humble in the face of our minor issues. Looking towards the cross really puts it all into context.

By all means God wants us to be physically gentle, and treat each other tenderly in all aspects, and I strongly feel that needs to start with our mouth. If we can master our mouths, the rest of the body will follow. James 3 compares the tongue to a bit in a horses mouth and the rudder on a ship, both are tiny compared to the thing they are attached to, but are able to steer and control it none the less. Our words steer our lives and control us in ways we usually don’t even realize, and if we can tame them, then the control is put back in our hands to give to God. James also compares the tongue to the spark that starts a forest fire. We have a choice to make our tongue the spark that starts the fire, or the water that keeps one from spreading. If we can tame our tongue and make it a gentle tool for uplifting and encouraging, we can control the fire and put it out before it burns out of control.

Don’t get me wrong… I am the worst at what I’m writing about. I have to fight daily to keep my mouth shut and respond gently, and 9 times out of 10 I screw it up. I have been the worst offender when it comes to letting my mouth loose. I find that I’ve often tried to make up for my shortcomings by unleashing wrath on someone to preempt their words which may be hard for me to hear. I have lost friends and the respect of people I look up to on many occasions because of this. I’ve alienated important and amazing people that have touched my life because out of fear I responded in haste with pointed words and left all evidence of gentleness, love and respect on the back steps. I was an idiot. I don’t want to be an idiot again. Don’t be an idiot. Your gentle words and actions will affect those you deal with and change your own life. Live with gentleness, love and respect towards everyone and before you know it, it will spread like wildfire and your entire world will start changing.

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