These two fruits present an interesting paradox of sorts. Kindness is widely considered an honorable attribute (even though it seems to rarely be carried out), while gentleness is often seen as weakness. In actuality, however, they are very closely linked to one another. For women especially, I feel that gentleness is definitely seen as weakness in this day and age. We as women are supposed to be strong, do everything that men can do, and take charge of what is ours. Now, don't get me wrong, women are extraordinary. We are strong, we can grow babies inside of us, and we often balance a hundred things at once. God created women for a beautiful purpose, and I believe whole-heartedly that we can achieve our purpose and be gentle while doing it. Of course, it doesn't just go for women. Men can be gentle as well, but in today's society "manly men" are not portrayed as gentle, ever. They're gruff and rugged and solid. News flash: men can be tough and gentle. I think of my uncle; he's a big guy with tattoos and piercings, often sporting a denim biker's jacket, and he is tough. Life has thrown a lot at him, and he's still standing strong. But if you looked at that denim jacket that he often wears, you would see the words "Rugged Cross" and an image of Jesus on it. And if you got to know him, you'd know that he does in fact have a gentle spirit (a bit crazy and very funny, but also gentle). The point is, being gentle is not weakness. It's the exact opposite; it gives us strength and purpose, and kindness goes hand-in-hand with it. The Oxford Dictionary defines gentleness as, "the quality of being kind, tender, or mild-mannered." Kindness is literally a part of gentleness; the two are intertwined, and therefore when one is portrayed, so is the other.
Let's think of when Jesus portrayed kindness and gentleness. Let us also keep in mind that Jesus faced a lot of opposition and ridicule in his lifetime and died a horrific death on a cross. He was definitely tough.
Example 1: The Arrest of Jesus
A time that comes to my mind of when Jesus portrayed kindness and gentleness was during his betrayal and arrest before his crucifixion. In the Gospel of Luke we have this account:
'And when those who were around him saw what would follow, they said, “Lord, shall we strike with the sword?” And one of them struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his right ear. But Jesus said, “No more of this!” And he touched his ear and healed him. Then Jesus said to the chief priests and officers of the temple and elders, who had come out against him, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs? When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness.”' (ESV)
Jesus chose to heal someone in the midst of a violent and terrifying moment. I say terrifying because Jesus knew what was coming. He knew what awaited him, and He had just prayed moments before for the Lord to take it from him. We know He was terrified of the fate awaiting him, and yet He healed someone who was there to arrest him and lead him to that exact fate. After that, He essentially asks those there to arrest him why they came with swords and clubs, as if to say He had no intention of putting up a fight. Looking back at the Oxford Dictionary definition of gentleness, we see that Jesus undeniably demonstrated all three of the qualities in that definition (kind, tender, and mild-mannered).
Example 2: Martha and Mary
Reflecting on these fruits brought me to another story in Luke. It's such a short story of only five verses, but it holds so much in it. It's the story of Martha and Mary.
'Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”' (ESV)
Again, Jesus demonstrated the qualities of kindness and gentleness. He was kind to Martha in his response, not dismissing her concerns, but instead showing her the importance of what Mary was doing. He was also most certainly tender in his response. I always picture the way he said those words. I think Martha's name is repeated very intentionally. In my mind, it's as if Jesus said her name once to begin his response, and the second time to really capture her attention and make sure she was going to hear the words He was about to say to her. At least the way I picture it, Jesus spoke to Martha very tenderly and lovingly. Finally, there are no exclamation points or any indication that Jesus reprimanded Martha in any way. Not only is that supportive of the fact that He spoke the words in kindness and tenderness, but it also implies that he was mild-mannered in doing so. When I think of this story and play it out in my mind, I just see so much kindness and gentleness in the way that Jesus responded to Martha. I also think it's important to realize that in that kindness and gentleness, Jesus presented a crucial lesson. He said there is one thing that is necessary and that would not be taken away from Mary as she sat at the feet of Jesus and listened. That's it. If we sit at the feet of Jesus and listen, the things that we will hear can never be taken from us. Jesus chose to teach Martha that lesson in such a kind and gentle way, and it makes total sense! Lessons taught in kindness and gentleness will always be received so much better than any taught in anger or harshness.
So no, gentleness is not a sign of weakness. Nor can it be viewed apart from kindness. Both kindness and gentleness are signs of the Spirit at work in you. They are a way to connect with people effectively, a way to love people, a way to guide people. Dear readers, do not be afraid to be kind and gentle in a world that seems to misunderstand these qualities. Kindness and gentleness could very well be a big part of what changes this world.