vs. Harshness
Showing personal care and concern in meeting the needs of others

Key Verse

“But we were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children.”
I Thessalonians 2:7

The operational definition of gentleness is “showing personal care and concern in meeting the needs of others.” Gentleness builds on several different character qualities. A person must first experience the love of God for himself and realize God’s love for others. After love, alertness recognizes the needs around him. Alertness requires wisdom to discern what level of involvement is appropriate. Wisdom paves the way for compassion to empathize with a person’s need and take suitable steps of action. Gentleness is the final touch, carrying out the act of compassion in a tender and thoughtful way. Lacking gentleness, a person’s loving intentions may actually cause more harm than good. However, as you experience the tenderness of God in your life, the more God will enable you to gently minister to others for Him. “Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God” (II Corinthians 1:4).

God longs to care for us as a mother hen cares for her chicks. (See Matthew 23:37.)
Satan is like a cruel thief who has no concern for others. “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).

The opposite of gentleness is harshness. In the absence of love, we will lack gentleness. Selfish motives, wrong priorities, and a limited perspective can cause a person to make demands sharply and “run over” others to accomplish his goals. Beware! If this attitude creeps into your thoughts or actions, remember that “a brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city: and their contentions are like the bars of a castle” (Proverbs 18:19). Do not rudely demand your way at the expense of others. Ask God to help you look beyond yourself to the needs of others and to replace your harshness with His love and care. “But he [Jesus] turned, and rebuked them [His disciples], and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them . . .” (Luke 9:55–56).

Evaluation Questions

  • What can I learn from past hurts in my life that would help me know how to be gentler with others now?
  • Do I speak negatively of those with whom I have conflicts?
  • Am I careful to speak with a soft tone and give gentle answers so as not to offend or discourage others?
  • Have I sought to understand others and their deeper needs?
  • When others assume I am available for their purposes, do I react with irritation because I was not first asked?
  • Do I consider the feelings of others and how my decisions may affect them?
  • Do I show honor to others by demonstrating courtesy and good manners?
  • Am I courteous and respectful of others’ need for occasional peace and quiet?
  • Do I refrain from sarcasm and making jokes about my brothers and sisters?

More About Gentleness

“Few of us will ever have the opportunity to perform great deeds of heroism, but to every one of us there is given the chance day by day to be sweet and gracious and winsome.”
Margaret Sangster
Transformation results as we behold the Lord and yield to the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives. “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord” (II Corinthians 3:18). As we see God’s character through testimonies in Scripture, we grow in our understanding and obedience to His Word. Here are ten aspects of Gentleness with supporting verses found in God’s Word.

God enables me to:


Speak kindly to others.

“Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones.” Proverbs 16:24

Use a soft voice.

“A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.” Proverbs 15:1

Value people.

“Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.” Philippians 2:3–4

Discern needs of others.

“Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest.” John 4:35

Give comfort to the hurting.

“Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.” II Corinthians 1:3–4

Consider the feelings of others.

“To speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men.” Titus 3:2

Handle things with care.

“He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up? But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them.” Matthew 13:28–29

Avoid harshness.

“Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.” James 1:19–20

Stay calm.

“Then they cry unto the Lord in their trouble, and he bringeth them out of their distresses. He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still. Then are they glad because they be quiet; so he bringeth them unto their desired haven.” Psalm 107:28–30

Be courteous.

“Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.” Matthew 7:12

Gentleness in Scripture

David’s Kindness to Jonathan’s Family

“And David said unto him, Fear not: for I will surely shew thee kindness for Jonathan thy father’s sake, and will restore thee all the land of Saul thy father; and thou shalt eat bread at my table continually.”
II Samuel 9:7
David and Jonathan had been close friends. Jonathan was the son of King Saul, and David, the son of Jesse, was anointed to be the next king of Israel. Recognizing David’s calling, Jonathan had asked David to covenant with him. The two friends made a promise that would extend to the lives of their descendants and would honor God. Years later, Jonathan and his father were killed in battle. King Saul’s household had panicked at the news, fearing for their lives with a new king coming to the throne. The servants scattered. As they were fleeing, one caring servant remembered Jonathan’s five-year-old son, Mephibosheth. Hastily, she snatched the young child in her escape, loyally saving the royal family. Now many years had passed. One day as the new king, David, remembered his friendship with Jonathan and the covenant they shared, he wondered if any of Jonathan’s children were alive. Committed to fulfilling his covenant with his childhood friend, a search began. The first clue came when King David’s men found Ziba, who had been a servant of King Saul. Did Ziba know of any living relatives? Who might still be alive that David could speak kindly to and keep the promise that he made when he was young?

Revealed in Nature

Eastern Bluebird

The eastern bluebird makes its home in the fence posts and tree stumps of the central and eastern United States. Its beautiful song, provision of food for its young, and commitment of time and attention to the incubation of eggs demonstrate the gentleness of the parent toward its family.

For Kids

Biblical Character Illustrated Curriculum

The Biblical Character Illustrated Curriculum uses examples from the lives of men and women in the Bible whose walk with God resulted in good character or whose lack of faith produced poor character. Learning gentleness helps children understand how God wants to extend His love to others through our tender care and thoughtful actions.

View the Gentleness booklet sample:

Get the complete Gentleness booklet with all four lessons & activities:

Free Resources for Gentleness

Enjoy these selections from the Biblical Character Illustrated Curriculum that are fun and memorable!

Bible Story Coloring Page
Verse & Definition Word Search
Related Hymn Sheet Music
“The Lord makes us more like Him in our dealings with souls. The servants are often hard on one another, but is the Master hard?”
Amy Carmichael