The eighth piece of fruit in the series on the Fruit of the Spirit is the fruit of Gentleness. For an overview see, By Their Fruit You Will Recognize Them.
Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.
In its original language, gentleness often stood in contrast to harshness. It is closely related to the Scriptural idea of meekness or humility. Followers of Jesus were often implored not to be overbearing and harsh with their words and their beliefs. Thus gentleness was to characterize their disposition when interacting with others. At the same time, truth was never to be compromised.
We have already covered the first fruit of love and we also examined the role of truth with the fruit of peace. Gentleness then could be described as – to use the language of the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Ephesians – “speaking the truth in love.” Truth is not being set aside, but neither is it being used as a harsh weapon that serves to turn people off from the message of grace, because it is wielded with a gentle stroke.
Speaking the truth in love is more of an art form than a science – a delicate balance that, as followers of Jesus, we must strive for in our words. Words that contain both truth and love provide valuable nourishment for others and ourselves. Yet it is rather easy to leave one of these two ingredients out of our words. Some people speak the truth quite freely. They have absolutely no problem pointing out faults and offering criticisms to those around them, even reminding others that the truth sometimes hurts (a sure sign that it was probably not spoken in love). What they say can even be rather accurate; there is truth in their words. But love is absent. Their words are not delivered with gentleness.
Other people extend love quite easily to those around them. They are often encouraging and make others feel good about themselves with their words. But when the truth does need to be spoken, they shy away from it, often settling for the approval of those around them. Truth is skirted if there is a possibility that it may bring disagreement or rejection.
The truth is that on the truth-love continuum, most of us lean more toward one than the other. Some of us are truth-tellers, while others of us are grace-givers. One comes easily for us while the other is a bit more difficult to muster up. But finding that balance is part of expressing the fruit of gentleness.
If gentleness is the art of speaking the truth in love, how would you characterize the fruit of gentleness being evident in your conversations?
- Am I speaking the truth with love and humility?
- Do you tend to be more of a truth-teller or a grace-giver?
- Have you interacted with a person who exuded gentleness with their words? How did you respond to their words? How was truth about yourself presented to you?