Gentleness is a gracious, courteous, kindly, peaceable, mild and tender quality of one’s disposition, manifesting itself in one’s bearing, voice, words and acts. According to this definition, it is an internal quality that expresses itself in one’s carriage, voice, words and acts. Someone once suggested the following definition: “Gentleness is love in society.”
Gentleness is one of the chief graces, and it is one of the most difficult to exercise, but when it is present, it makes one winsome, pleasing, gracious, mild, tender and soothing.
Scriptures Testify to Gentleness
God exercises gentleness, as can be seen in His gentleness toward David (Psalm 18: 35). Our Lord Jesus is very gentle. His gentleness shows itself toward mature and young Christians (Isaiah 40: 11). It exercises itself toward the fallen and the weak (Isaiah 42: 3). It is the basis of an appeal to the Corinthian brethren in well-doing (2 Corinthians 10: 1). It is the central thought in Jesus’ invitation to the laboring and heavy laden to come to Him and rest (Matthew 11: 28-30). The Apostle Paul was a noble example of gentleness (1 Thessalonians 2: 7) (Galatians 4: 19). He exhorted the brethren to make their gentleness known to all men (Philippians 4: 5, American Standard Version, ASV, margin). It is one of the ingredients of the wisdom that comes from above (James 3: 17), and it is a quality especially befitting for the teachers in the Church (2 Timothy 2: 24) (Titus 3: 2). Its soft answer turns away wrath, while its opposite, expressing itself in grievous words, stirs up strife (Proverbs 15: 1).
Gentleness in Action
Gentleness should express itself in the various relations of life – between husbands and wives, children and parents, siblings and all other family relationships; yet ungentleness also exercises itself in these relations in its ungraciousness, impoliteness, boisterousness, rudeness, roughness and harshness. Sometimes, when parents need to discipline their children, gentleness may not be so evident, though all punishments should be no more than really necessary and should be done in love. Parents should also show love to the child after the necessary chastisement is given.
Gentleness has many opportunities to express itself in business, professions, labor and industry, education, politics, government, church affairs, etc. In our day gentleness is more and more being neglected. Many are very discourteous, impolite, boisterous, rude, rough and harsh. Some even seem to take pride in profanity and vulgarity. Many seem to feel that it boosts their ego to do this, because they are otherwise unable to cope with some situations. Many do not want to consider the rights and privileges of others, but treat them more or less as opponents and enemies.
The Enemies of Gentleness
Like other graces, gentleness has its enemies, personal and impersonal. Among the impersonal enemies of gentleness is carelessness. Many are led by carelessness to feel that it is not important to be gentle, especially to family members and others we know well.
Inconsiderateness is another enemy of gentleness. The inconsiderate one usually is so occupied with other things that he or she does not properly consider others – their feelings, time, comfort, convenience, freedom from anxiety, etc.
Selfishness also is detrimental to gentleness. If one thinks mainly about self and its interests, this usually tends to interfere with gentleness and its development; but gentleness causes one to think much about others and their interests. It helps to put God and Christ first, others second and ourselves third.
Irreverence is another enemy of gentleness, which if it creeps in, will often cause one to lose more or less the elements of gentleness.
Evil surmising also works against gentleness, especially against considerateness and tenderness.
Contentiousness is another foe of gentleness. Disputatiousness and disagreeableness with others unnecessarily on many or nearly all expressions will fight against gentleness and its development.
Unrighteous anger is another enemy of gentleness. Not only will it cause one to lose gentleness, but it will replace it with all the elements of ungentleness, even to the extent of bodily injury and in some cases murder.
The main personal enemy to gentleness is Satan, who works in and through these impersonal enemies in order to overcome Christians. Satan also works through the world and the flesh.
Let us seek to be God’s truly gentle men and women, thereby letting our gentleness be known unto all.