This is a guest post by Susannah Cafardi, NCC Barracks Row Saturday Small Group Director.
Christine Caine made an assertion when introducing an individual Scripture passage: “The story starts where every story starts, before the story starts, and the story ends where every story ends, after the story ends.” Insomuch as we are involved in the stories of others, I think that loving them with a spirit of gentleness requires a similar acknowledgement.
I’ve struggled with putting my finger on how to conceptualize gentleness – seeking God for a strong, tangible illustration to share. But I was missing the lesson He was trying to teach me. Gentleness is found in the day to day and the moments that barely hit our radars.
I guess this means that I get to practice gentleness with my professional peer who doesn’t pull her weight and with the boy who was unknowingly hurtful in our last interaction. It means that He’s challenging me to practice gentleness in a way that recognizes that I’m involved in only a small part of each of their stories. Funny – I was kind of hoping for something that seemed more earth shattering since honestly I think that might be easier.
But the fact that opportunities to practice gentleness are so pervasive leads me to realize that in cultivating gentleness, I really can impact many others wherever they are in their stories.
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.