This spiritual fruit is powerful and an antidote to harshness and anger where ever we find it.
Gentleness is not something we spend much time thinking about or desiring, but it might be one of the most important virtues for us to cultivate in the digital age. We don’t live in a world that values being gentle; instead many of us experience the world — the real one and the virtual one — as harsh, rude, cold, violent, and crass. And sadly, some of us are guilty of dishing that right back to others.
What does it mean to be gentle? Does it mean being soft, malleable, insecure, or weak? On the contrary.
In fact, gentleness is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. St. Paul tells us in Galatians 5:22:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
So being gentle is actually a sign that we have allowed the Holy Spirit to bear fruit in us; it’s a virtue that is born from the power of the Spirit. So it is anything but weak.
BibleStudyTools.com might have one of the best definitions of gentleness:
Sensitivity of disposition and kindness of behavior, founded on strength and prompted by love.
Gentleness is a kind of sensitivity that becomes part of who we are and how we interact with the world. It shows itself in how we act, comes from a place of interior strength, and is motivated by love for others.
It’s hard to be gentle. It takes that other unsung virtue — humility — to grow in it. As with any virtue, we need to pray for it, but we also need to practice it.
When we’re about to pound out a response to an online comment we find annoying and instead choose to write something polite or not at all, we’re being gentle. When our spouse says something out of anger and we calmly listen rather than strike out, we’re being gentle. When our children are interrupting us for the hundredth time and we choose to smile at them and speak calmly, we’re being gentle.
Gentleness is an important human quality, but it’s especially a hallmark of a Christian. Paul tells us in Colossians 3:12:
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
And he also says in Philippians 4:5 that gentleness should be something people recognize in us:
Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.
So, make gentleness a goal for the rest of this year. It will make your own world a little more calm, a little more civil, and a lot more peaceful.