Gentleness: The Overlooked Virtue that Can Change Your Life
Good Morning and Happy Sunday!
Thank you for spending time with me during your Sabbath, where we greet God in Holy rest. Even if you aren't a Christian, I would encourage you to find a day or set aside time to rest each week: it is truly a life giving experience that allows you to connect more with yourself, nature, your relationships, and more.
Today we have the Sunday series again! If you haven't heard, the Sunday Series is when we focus on a topic related to our character and heart. For this week, I felt inspired to write about the virtue of "gentleness."
I know, I know, it's not the most exciting topic, and it doesn't sound flashy, dramatic, or entertaining. But that is precisely why I wanted to talk about it: I think it is one of the most overlooked character traits in our modern world
Let's dive in.
In these recent years, I've seen an uptick in messages pushed towards women encouraging bravery, badassery, and general intensity. We have the mantras of "fight for yourself, put yourself first, and push towards your dreams." Now, these aren't necessarily negative messages, but I do think we often overlook the softer side of character development and communication.
If you approach communication with the mindset of "I'm here to get what I want at all costs," you forget about others. The push towards speaking your mind and embracing the sass has all but left behind the concept of gentleness.
If you're like me, maybe these modern messages might stress you out.
Pushing towards the title of "badass" just feels... unnatural. It feels disingenuous to me, and I'm truly not inspired by it.
Sometimes I just want advice on how to be a better person: not advice on how to conquer the world.
So gentleness. What does it bring up in your mind? When you hear the word, you may thing of less than favorable words like weak, quiet, meek, or small. But what actually is gentleness?
The definition involves words like tenderness, kindness, and mild-mannered. These are not weak, small, or quiet.
Being mild-mannered, tender, and kind takes a lot of discipline, self control, and emotional restraint. Remaining poised in the face of stress, conflict, or frustration is a characteristic of strength, fortitude, and character. I WISH I was more mild-mannered than I am naturally.
Second of all, isn't it interesting how we can see that the word "gentleness" has fallen out of fashion since the turn of the 20th century? This again points to that larger narrative of "fight for yourself, get what you want, and never back down."
These messages can be great in the right context, but I promise you that if you approach every situation or communication with a "never back down" attitude, you're probably going to run into some problems. I know I did.
From Harsh to Gentle: My Story
When I was living at home as an irritable preteen, I often heard my parents admonish my attitude with the words "watch your tone." They would explain, "it's not what you're saying, it's HOW you're saying it."
If I wanted something or needed something, I would often ask in a rude or harsh way. I falsely believed that the more intense I was when communicating, the more likely it was that I would get my needs met.
But the opposite would happen. When I had an attitude, the LESS likely it was that someone would want to help me, give me what I wanted, or respond to me.
I truly hated getting in trouble for my "tone" but honestly, I am thankful that my parents wanted me to be aware of how I was saying things.
I have since grown into gentleness, and hope to change more every day. Gentleness has improved my life in more ways than I can count: not just with my relationship with my husband, but also in realms online, in public, with strangers, and with family members. I always try to approach even the harshest of situations with a measure of gentleness.
This brings me to my next point:
Why should we adopt gentleness into our lives?
Gentleness is a helpful communication strategy because it puts you in a place of balance, allows your message to be received by the listener, and opens up a space for tender communication. Through the virtue of gentleness, you can diffuse conflict, think rationally, and remain peaceful.
Gentleness in a marriage is transformational: often we treat strangers or people we've just met with more tenderness and politeness than those living in our own homes! I would recommend that if you are to bestow gentleness on anyone, let it be those who are closest to you.
Our relationships, lives, and daily communications can be greatly blessed when we adopt a gentle spirit.
But I'm not just blowing anecdotal smoke here: there is true evidence in Scripture that our relationships and lives will be blessed through gentleness. I want to encourage even my non-Christian readers to hold on through this part: we will be wading through a lot of general wisdom that applies to anyone; "Believer" or otherwise.
"You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God." 1 Peter 3:4 NLT
The beauty from within is "unfading beauty." I always try to remember that one day, my face will be full of wrinkles and my hair will turn white, but nevertheless, I can take hold of unfading beauty by allowing my character and heart to be shaped by love, tenderness, and gentleness.
Please remember that this isn't saying that you need to be shy and quiet your whole life: no! It just means that your spirit should be one of tenderness and peace: an admirable and nurturing spirit that can be used to bless others.
This next scripture sheds more light on this idea:
"A harsh word stirs up anger, but a gentle word turns away wrath." Proverbs 15:1 NIV
Harsh words stir up anger, frustration and wrath across all forms of communication: our marriages, friendships, interactions with strangers, and comments on the internet. If we responded with gentleness instead of emotional frustration in these situations, we will turn away wrath and save ourselves from further conflict, drama, and anger.
Furthermore, gentleness allows you to present your feelings and thoughts in a way that will not be as offensive or frustrating, even if you disagree with someone.
You must not be afraid to speak truth into peoples lives. Gentleness is a virtue that gives us a strategy for how to speak truth, how to disagree with others, and how to ask for things you need. You can still do all of these things, but with gentleness, you will most likely avoid a lot of anger and frustration.
Step away from reactionary behavior and move into gentleness.
In Closing: An Encouragement
I am still growing in this area: everyday I feel like I learn more ways I need to grow into gentleness.
While I can never transform into someone I'm not, (I don't think I could be a quiet wallflower, even if it was my only goal in life) I still think it's worth it to include more gentleness in my daily behaviors and attitude.
I want to grow into a person of gentleness so that when I have children, I can handle tough situations with care and kindness and so that whenever I enter a room, I bring with me an aura of peace and tenderness, and never make people feel on edge.
I would encourage you this week to grow into gentleness. Ask yourself, is there anywhere in my life where I am being harsh? Am I harsh with my spouse? Am I harsh with my friends? Is the way I tease others harsh? Is my sarcasm harsh?
Step away from harsh words and attitudes and live into gentleness. You will not need to sacrifice your needs or desires: many of those can still be achieved through communicating and presenting in gentleness.