Gentleness is supporting others during their times of weakness so that they can achieve their full potential in the Lord.
One Hebrew word for gentleness is anavah. It means “condescention, human and subj. (modesty), or divine and obj. (clemency).” It is also translated as humility and meekness.
The Practical Expression of Gentleness
Gentleness is demonstrated in our responses to others, especially those who are under our care. Instead of immediately reacting to the weaknesses and limitations of others, we need to learn to respond with Christlike love through a soft answer and patient encouragement.
Biblical Models of Gentleness
A shepherd caring for sheep
The very life and health of the sheep depend on the gentleness of the shepherd. The Lord compares Himself to a gentle shepherd in the following passage: “Behold, the Lord GOD will come with a strong hand, and his arm shall rule for him: behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him. He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young” (Isaiah 40:10–11). The Hebrew word for gently lead in this passage is nahal. It means “to lead, guide; to give rest to, to refresh (with food).”
Jesus describes Himself as the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for His sheep. (See John 10:11.)
A mother with her infant
Paul uses the concept of gentleness when describing his love and care for those whom he led to Christ: “We were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children” (I Thessalonians 2:7).
The Greek word for cherisheth is thalpo. It means “to keep warm, and to foster with tender care.” It carries with it the picture of a mother hen covering her young with her feathers.
A nursing mother knows that her infants are very vulnerable and easily damaged by harsh treatment or neglect. She knows that they are dependent on her for loving care, nourishment, and protection. In I Thessalonians 2:7, the word Paul used for gentle means “affable, i.e. mild or kind.”
How a Gentle Spirit Is Developed
We learn gentleness at the hands of those who are gentle with us. One of the reasons God allows suffering may be to provide us with opportunities to express gentleness to others.
The concept of gentleness through humbling oneself was taught by Jesus to His disciples when He said, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). Jesus said, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek [gentle] and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls” (Matthew 11:28–29). The word lowly means “depressed, i.e. (fig.) humiliated (in circumstances or disposition) and denotes being of low degree, brought low, humble, cast down.
In order to teach us how to be lowly, God carefully takes us through trials. Through them, He gives us comfort and counsel so that we will be prepared to share with and encourage others who are going through similar trials. “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).
How Gentleness Is Basic to Wisdom
When James describes the qualities of wisdom, he includes gentleness: “But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and withouut hypocrisy” (James 3:17).
The gentleness that comes from true wisdom is the result of an understanding heart.
- Have you developed self-discipline and humility in order to be attentive to the hurts and needs of others?
- When you give instructions or responses to others, do you take into consideration their weaknesses and limitations?
- Do you allow past pain and suffering in your life to remind you to protect others?
- Are you irritable and reactionary when people with needs intrude upon your time or energy?
- Do you give a soft answer so that you do not offend or discourage others?
- Do you see potential in others and purpose to help them grow in the Lord?