But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. -Galatians 5:22 & 23 (NKJV)
Above is a passage from the Bible about what spiritual fruit should be flourishing within you as a Christian. There's the obvious, but no less important, ones like love and joy and peace. Then there's long suffering, which is also known as patience, and kindness and goodness. Faithfulness and self-control are the more difficult ones to practice, and then there is gentleness: the one I struggle with the most.
It all started in 5th grade, my first year in real school (I was home schooled up until then). It was also a Christian private school; a place where I was told I would feel safe and loved, but what I was met with was the complete opposite. Entering this foreign land, I was incredibly naïve, sensitive, and outspoken. It's an odd combination, but nevertheless, they resided in me. I had no idea how to manage those personality traits at 10 years old, so I ultimately went without a filter every day, saying everything on my mind thinking that I was helping people. This obviously led to a lack of friends and too many encounters with girls who were incredibly brutal to me in response to my behavior. On some occasions, I definitely deserved it. On others, it was more than heavy-handed. Due to the "mean girl" brutality I endured, I became aware of serious changes I needed to make in order to start making some friends.
I felt lonely, hurt, and immeasurably misunderstood most of my adolescence because of the interactions I had with fellow classmates. In my head, I was being helpful, genuine, and loving, but my delivery was on the contrary. I would think my friendships (when I finally made some friends) were rock solid, filled with trust and honesty then come to find out that all of them had planned a sleepover and didn't invite me or I would be walking up to them during recess and they would literally run away from me when they saw me. And talking badly about me behind my back became the norm. Pretty humbling to say the least.
You would think that part of me changing would be to soften my approach and delivery towards people, especially after being so hurt, but nope. It made me more defensive and more aggressive, so much so that people said they were afraid to come up to me for fear I would go off on them. I had built a great, big wall made of cement and brick. No one was getting in. And people were scared of me? Jackpot. I loved knowing no one wanted to mess with me because that meant they also couldn't see the hurt and hate in my heart either. I walked around with that mentality all the way up until recently. Yep, that's right - I have just now realized that being gentle is crucial if you ever want to encourage, influence, and love someone.
Being married, being a step-mom, and getting close to God caused my eyes to open wider and see clearer in regards to how I should and shouldn't carry myself. As a wife, I am called to be meek and trusting towards my husband (1 Peter 3:1-6 NKJV) ; as a mother, I am called to speak kindness and wisdom to my children (Proverbs 31:10-3 NKJV); as a follower of Christ, I am called to walk in the Spirit (Galatians 5:16, 25 NKJV). All of those traits require gentleness. When you are gentle, you are soft, patient, loving, understanding, and automatically a person that appears comforting and safe. These are also God's character traits, and we are called to portray God's character in our own life (Romans 8:1, Ephesians 3:19, Colossians 2:6 NKJV). Holding these three very important identities simultaneously has forced me to reflect and ponder how I am perceived by others and how that affects them. When I think of how Jesus walked around Jerusalem, I do not picture him arrogant, defensive, or aggressive. He wouldn't be the Son of God if He displayed those traits. Instead, He was patient, gracious, and gentle to all who approached Him. He constantly acted on His love for people even though He, out of anyone who has lived on this earth, had every reason not to.
So, what was my excuse then? I justified every ounce of aggression and stubbornness on being hurt, betrayed, and put down. Sorry, Kaitlin, those are not excuses, nor are they justified (and yes, I talk to myself). Seeing my step-daughter's face when I snapped at her because she spilled water all over the floor; realizing that I can be so naturally condescending towards my husband because he didn't put the pot back in the correct cupboard: these are instances I had to sit with. I'm still working at it, but at the height of our marriage, I was constantly aggressive with both of them. My body language and tone were in a seemingly permanent state of irritation, and it was wrong. I came to terms with the fact that if I kept it up my step-daughter would be scared of me, causing her to grow anxious and most-likely develop a feeling of never being good enough, and my husband would shut down and resent me. As I write this, I am reminded of Proverbs 31:12 - "She does him good and not evil all the days of her life." As some of you may know, Proverbs 31 is basically the biblical manual on how to be a godly wife and mother. Solomon tells us in verse 12 that a wife does her husband good all the days of her life. She is not menacing, demeaning, or a nag. She does not bring him unnecessary stress and she does not cause strife in the home. As a wife, I am called to be the one that peace, patience, and wisdom stems from.
So, after many, MANY fights between my husband and me, I tried effortlessly to identify my hardness and aggression as they both started to form and materialize, so that I could stop them before anyone felt the effects. I have failed more than I'd like to admit, but I continue to work on it.
Gentleness is a trait of femininity that many women have suppressed over the last couple of decades. They think that in order to be equal to men they must act like them. How wrong they are. Much like meekness, gentleness occurs when you are holding back strength. Let gentleness be your strength instead (2 Corinthians 10:1, Colossians 3:12, James 3:13, Micah 6:8 NKJV). Remember that being feminine is a good thing. God made women soft and curvy for a reason - we are the counter part to males. Opposites attract, after all. Women and men are puzzle pieces that fit perfectly, just as God intended. When you have 2 of the same ends of the magnet, there's no attraction. So, ladies, be feminine the way the bible exemplifies. I urge you to read Proverbs 31 and to study each verse with intention. Look up words you don't understand. Look into the context. Read Titus 2 as well. Actually, it would do all Christian women well to read those two chapters every week. I know I need that reminder all too often, no matter how many times I'm humbly brought to my knees in repentance for the way I treat people because of my lack of gentleness. For those of you who relate to me, I empathize with you.
We must work consciously everyday towards being gentle, feminine Proverbs 31, Titus 2, Galatians 5 women of God!
Sincerely + with love,