Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
My family hates clothing that needs to be washed separately. It’s an extra step that slows down our weekly laundry ritual. Delicate fabrics might look and feel nice, but they’re annoying. In our house, “wash on gentle” items get worn once, a small stain gets on the front, and much later, we run a separate load, which requires an iron set on low. Sound familiar?
As I read Colossians 3:12, I realize I’m supposed to wear all the Christlike character traits listed. But I don’t want to. I’m good with compassion, kindness, humility, and patience being in my wardrobe. They make sense to me and are desperately needed in my heart and our messy world daily. But gentleness? Being gentle typically gets me walked on and dumped in a corner somewhere. In my limited experience, gentleness is connected to weakness. It suggests being soft or fragile inside and out. Like delicate fabrics that look and feel nice, I tend to value being gentle the same way. It’s why I’d rather wear the other virtues that seem hardier and more practical.
My reaction to gentleness got me thinking: what does the Bible mean versus my own definition? The Greek word for gentleness is prautēta, or meek. And different from popular opinion, meek doesn’t mean weak. Godly gentleness has to do with being strong in character and self-controlled action. Being gentle is about having the inner fortitude to dive into a situation with an appropriate measure of perspective, understanding, empathy, and resources. A gentle person gets angry at the right time, in the right amount, and for the right reason. A gentle person tends to a tense situation, a contrary opinion, a hurting person, or a broken relationship in the same way. Gentleness is far from soft or fragile—it’s rooted in and reflects harnessed spiritual power.
Given what true gentleness is about, I guess I need to mix things up when it comes to wearing it more often. The Lord doesn’t want you or I to leave it lying around near the ironing board. Being gentle is worth wearing every day and shows God’s goodness, strength, and care to the world each time we put it on.
Reflect on how you define gentleness versus how the Bible talks about it. Who is someone you can practice being gentle with today in a godly way, and how?