A gentle answer turns away wrath
but a harsh word stirs up anger.
-King Solomon of Israel
Part of my job as a pastor is to occasionally tell people things that they don’t want to hear.
Let’s just say it’s not my favorite part of my job.
But it has taught me the value of gentleness. Even delivered without any particular edge or harshness, the truth can hurt, but an extra measure of gentleness soothes like salve on a wound.
Now I know pastors aren't the only people who have to do this. If you supervise employees, have kids, or want to be a true friend, sometimes you have to say things that people aren’t inclined to like.
I’ve found a couple of things help me to be more gentle.
One is humility, which comes from a profound awareness of my own fallenness—along with a recognition that I don’t know it all, don’t have all the answers, and could be missing something.
The other is love. Sure, love might mean speaking a hard truth. But it isn’t love if our motivation is to put someone in their place, say “I told you so,” or assert our authority. If we speak out of love, if our heart is truly for the other person and wanting what is best for them, then we can speak gently.
Of course, the value of gentleness extends beyond just hard conversations. A gentle spirit towards an overworked waiter, a frustrated customer, or an angry spouse can work wonders and be a light that points them toward Jesus.