Journey to Gentleness

How do I demonstrate thoughtfulness and consideration?

I am thoughtful, considerate and calm in my dealings with others.

Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. (Philippians 4:5, NIV)

Isn’t funny how we often connect gentleness with a certain type of personality? Anyone who does not fit that stereotype obviously isn’t gentle…right?

Listen to this story…

At St. Francis High School in La Canada, California, math teacher Jim O’Connor is known for his tough, no-nonsense approaching to algebra, pushing his students—all boys—into shape. O’Connor, a Vietnam vet told CBS News, “It drives me crazy when people say school should be fun. I mean, it’s nice if it could be, but you can’t make school fun.”

Pat McGoldrick, a senior at St. Francis says, “[Until people get used to him,] they think he’s really mean.” But that all changed for Pat and his classmates when they visited Los Angeles Children’s Hospital to recruit blood donors for a blood drive they were organizing.
When the boys mentioned where they went to school, they were immediately met with awe. The hospital staff said things like, “Oh, so you must know Jim O’Connor. Isn’t he wonderful?”

The boys were stunned and, if they were being honest, a little confused about the man they thought they knew. That confusion was cleared up when they saw a plaque in the hospital for all-time donors. At the top of the list? Jim O’Connor. A universal blood donor (type O-negative), O’Connor has donated a total of 72 gallons of blood and platelets since 1989, surely saving countless lives along the way.

But there was more that the boys learned that day: Jim O’Connor, who never married or had children of his own, volunteers three days a week holding and rocking sick and dying babies when their parents can’t be there. O’Connor says of the babies, “I don’t want to see them alone. You can’t do that.”

O’Connor’s students were blown away. Their tough teacher had a gentle and caring heart.

Bonnie McMaken, Carol Stream, Illinois; source: Steve Hartman, “Tough California teacher has a tender heart,” CBS News (2-14-14)

When you think of gentleness what comes to mind? On first blink we may default to images of syrupy sweetness and softness, we may perceive it as effeminate and/or a personality disposition that we suspect does not do much for us in a highly competitive world.

But gentleness as described in the bible is a Christ like character trait for those who being filled with the Spirit of God. Jesus gives an invitation where he says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest…(Matt 11:28) In this invitation Jesus reminds us that He is gentle and humble in heart.(verse 29) Rest for our souls includes learning the way of gentleness from our Saviour.

[We learn the way of Jesus in order to become, as Eugene Petersen says, “our eternal selves for the eternal city”.(citation:The Way of the Dragon or the Way of the Lamb)]

Scripture shows us God is far less interested in your results than the person you are becoming. So today let us consider the quality of gentleness.

Our key verse today is taken from Philippians 4:5

Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. (Philippians 4:5, NIV)

We must understand this is so much more than speaking in “hushed tones” or having a “soft touch” or “getting hurt easily”. Today we want you to consider three distinctive expressions when you are on your journey in demonstrating gentleness.


Gentleness is not having Half-baked opinions but sees the whole context.

The idea of gentleness includes you are not insisting on every right of letter of law or custom. You understand what is expected but you navigate the standards not with unbending strictness but instead are merciful and are tolerant of slight deviations.

In other words you attempt to thoughtfully see the whole context. Rather than simply state in a half baked way “well that is the rule” you strive to see the intent behind the rule and make adjustments as needed.

James 3:17 catches this idea of wise thinking with gentleness – But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times

You are a professor, you have stated 12 noon to be your deadline for papers. Someone delivers a paper in at 12:07. What is the right response? What is the gentle and right response?

I remember my daughter in a provincial speech contest years ago. There were 2 parts to the competition. One was the main speech and then a spontaneous shorter speech from a randomly drawn question.

She did really really well in her main speech. When it came time for the spontaneous question – If I remember correctly – her question was based on a quote from Albert Einstein dealing with technology’s impact on our society” She was asked if she agreed or disagreed and to speak for minute or so why.

The quote was big and she panicked. She said she disagreed with Einstein and then stammered in somewhat confused sentences for the next moments.

I remember the judges took a long time after all the students finished both parts. I knew Megan was at the top of the group with the main speech and likely last with the spontaneous part.

As the main judge came up to deliver the who finished in 1st, 2nd and 3rd place – he stated their dilemma with Megan’s speech results – he summed it up by saying that the main speech was the primary goal of the competition and in light of that – Megan was rewarded for her efforts in that high school provincial speech contest.

I tell that story because it required the ability for the judges to see the whole context…and make a gentle decision.

When we begin to grasp context we will become gentle. We avoid becoming someone who wants an unbendable rule of law/tradition without being tempered by graciousness, mercy, or compassion. We will avoid becoming someone who lacks empathy and wisdom when evaluating what is just.

Micah 6:8 – what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy – those words from Micah show us…

Gentleness wisely includes mercy with what is right and just.

Gentleness is not being being Heartless but considers the person.

When we see people the way God sees people we will find that the best response includes gentleness.

Wisdom literature of the bible encourages us with this instruction – A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger – Proverbs 15:1. In our words with others, gentleness paves the way to deeper understanding because you are treating others with respect.

How do you respond when you are encountering someone who is coming across as heartless, harsh and with no empathy to your situation? Walls go up. Loving people means we take time to put ourselves in other people’s shoes. And by doing so this we are practicing gentleness because we are considering the other person. We are feeling what they are feeling.

Do to others as you would have them do to you. Luke 6:31

Philip Yancey shares a story from his book Vanishing Grace that I think illustrates this aspect of gentleness where we truly consider the other person.

Once, while speaking on the topic of grace in Toronto, I asked the audience about their own experiences conveying grace to others. One woman shocked us all: “I feel called to minister to telephone marketers. You know, the kind who call at inconvenient hours and deliver their spiel before you can say a word.” Immediately I flashed back to the times I have responded rudely or simply hung up. She continued:
All day long these sales callers hear people curse at them and slam the phone down. I listen attentively to their pitch, then I try to respond kindly, though I almost never buy what they’re selling. Instead, I ask about their personal life and whether they have any concerns I can pray for. Often they ask me to pray with them over the phone, and sometimes they are in tears. They’re people, after all, probably underpaid, and they’re surprised when someone treats them with common courtesy.
Philip Yancey, Vanishing Grace (Zondervan, 2014), pp. 75-76

This story reminds us that gentleness is not a heartless harsh response but really thinks about the other person. This is letting your gentleness be evident to all.

Gentleness is not being Hot-headed but shows restraint in its response

As much as gentleness involves thoughtful understanding of the context and considering the other person/persons ultimately it comes down to our response.

Recently we had an Emergency Evacuation Plan rehearsal – we are learning that when people are involved in intense situations there are 3 common responses – FIGHT, FLIGHT or FREEZE.

I got thinking how often when we are dealing with people we find our emotions are taking us into one of those 3 responses. We fight, we take flight or we freeze. What is hard about all those responses is that none of them demonstrate gentleness.

Which one are you?

All of these responses may feel good in the moment but in the long run these are simply immature emotional responses that are not loving and do not demonstrate gentleness.

Being considerate of others, gracious and kind requires us to choose our response. Specifically it means we restrain our response.

I think we often think gentleness means weakness when in fact it means strength under control. Gentleness always focuses on how love can be experienced in that moment.

Think of Jesus encounter with Peter after his resurrection. Here was Jesus who had just defeated the powers of Satan and death. All authority in heaven and earth is his. He knew Peter had denied him. How did He treat Peter?

Around that fire on the shore – Jesus simply asked Peter 3 times – read in John 21 – “do you love me?” What a gentle Saviour. Jesus goal was restoration, not rejection. He led with compassion not correction.

What difference would it made if Jesus had commissioned Peter in a harsh manner? What if Jesus had responded with a FIGHT, FLIGHT, FREEZE? But how he restored Peter is part of what gentleness is all about. How we live, work and serve with others is where our restrained/retrained response makes all the difference.

True for all believers but I this is true especially for leadership – In 1 Timothy 3 – Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task…of all the qualities catch this one – not violent but gentle – we may feel the urge to lash out but in the end it achieves little.

Here is a story about how a gentle response changes the moment when things can’t be changed.

“Ed and his wife, Barb, are from Ann Arbor, Michigan. The Waltz’s daughter, Deb, has cerebral palsy.

Barb had hoped that Deb would walk one day. After performing a battery of tests, the first doctor led Ed and Barb into a small conference room where he bluntly laid out for them what they could expect. In a tone that was cold and emotionally disconnected from his patient, the doctor said, “It is extremely unlikely that your daughter will ever walk.”

Still in a state of shock from the devastating news, Barb asked, “But what kind of shoes should I buy for my daughter?” She was thinking about some special corrective shoes, or perhaps shoes connected to a brace.

Without softening the blow, the doctor retorted, “Buy her whatever kind of shoes you want. She won’t be using them to walk in.” And with that, he quickly left the room, where Barb burst into tears.

Several months later, the family met with a second doctor. This time the entire scene felt different, though. Ed said, “My wife asked this new doctor essentially the same question she had asked the first one. She was still wondering if there was anything we could do that might enable our daughter to take even a few steps.”

The doctor paused for a moment, thinking. Then, he looked compassionately and directly into Barb’s eyes and said, “You know what I would do if I were you, Mrs. Waltz? I’d buy my daughter the prettiest little pink shoes I could find, with purple shoe laces.”

Barb knew what he meant.

Ed said, “We talked about our experience on the way home. Both doctors had told us the same thing—Deb would never walk. I’m ashamed to say what we felt like doing to the first doctor, but we felt like hugging the second doctor.”

Gently speaking the truth makes a difference in how that truth is received

My gentleness – Is it evident to all?
So here is our question. My gentleness and your gentleness is it evident to all? We are told to clothe ourselves with gentleness. Are you wearing gentleness well? When people have to meet you are they dreading it or looking forward to it?

“If we want to know the true measure of our gentleness, we have to ask others” – Randy Frazee

May I gently inquire – Will you ask someone this week?