Self-Care: Be Gentle with Yourself and With Others

Coastal Fawn Lily, by Thomas Robinson

One of the 30 ways to practice self-care is to be gentle, including being gentle with yourself, and being gentle with others. We live in a society filled with harsh, rude, rough, unkind, mean actions and words. Gentleness stands out as a strange, almost foreign attribute. Let us look together at how the Bible describes a life of gentleness.

The word gentle is used only 22 times in the Bibe, 8 times in the Old Testament and 14 times in the New Testament.

In 1 Kings 19, the Word of the LORD comes to Elijah asking him to “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” A mighty wind tore the mountain apart, shattering rocks, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. An earthquake struck the mountain, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. A fire came upon the mountain, but the Lord was not in the fire. “After the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.” God met Elijah in a gentle whisper.

God wants to meet you in a gentle whisper today, telling you to be gentle with yourself, especially when you, like Elijah, are exhausted, weary, or afraid.

Proverbs 15:1 reminds us of a basic truth regarding being gentle with others: “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”

Be gentle with yourself, but be gentle also with those around you.

Jesus invites us to come be close to him, and describes himself as gentle. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).

The Greek word for GENTLE is πρᾳΰτης, prautes, a complex word which may be translated “gentle-force,” denoting that gentleness is not weak or wimpy, but rather a force or strength or power which is restrained out of love. You see Jesus’ gentleness evidenced when Jesus came into Jerusalem at the beginning of Holy Week. He came riding not on a war horse, but on a peace donkey, coming to us in gentleness, as we hear in the Gospel of Matthew: “Say to Daughter Zion, ‘See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey’” (Matthew 21:5).

Gentleness is one of nine fruit of the Spirit as recorded in Galatians 5. “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” Gentleness in this list of spiritual fruit follows after faithfulness and precedes self-control. In this order, gentleness, is a product of faithfully being present with Christ, and gentleness leads us into a life of fruitful self-control.

To cultivate the fruit of gentleness in your life, especially in your way of living among others, step into personal life with Christ Jesus, “belong to Christ Jesus,” by letting your old self be put to death “with its passions and desires,” and begin living by the Spirit, keeping in step with the Spirit.

As followers of our Lord, Paul urges us “to live a life worthy of the calling you have received,” by being “completely humble and gentle; being patient, bearing with one another in love,” and by making “every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:1-3).

In Paul’s letter to the Colossians, we are encouraged to clothe ourselves with a variety of Christ-virtues, including gentleness: “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Colossians 3;12).

When we are clothed daily with gentleness and these other virtues, we are more able to be gentle wiith others, even in the face of threats and challenges, as Paul writes to the Church in Philippi: “Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.” (Phil. 4;2)