Has Gentleness Become a Thing of the Past?

Has Gentleness Become a Thing of the Past?  By Sharon Sheppard

Because music has been one of the grand passions of my life, I’ve surrounded myself with musical instruments. The piano, which was my first love, is still my instrument of choice, and I play it every day. My skill is only mediocre on the other instruments, but they still give me pleasure in spite of my limited performance capabilities.

One day when a friend and her three-year-old stopped in, I could see him eyeing the ukulele that leaned against the hearth.

“Would you like to play it?” I asked. “You can play if you’re gentle with it,” I said.

Because a ukulele looks like a miniature guitar, I’m sure he expected rock and roll volume. But after a few strums, he handed it back to his mother. “Needs a battery,” he said.

We’ve become accustomed to a lot of noise and bravado in our culture. We’re urged to be assertive, make our voice heard, and to “Look out for Number One.”

  • Elizabeth Warren, U.S. Senator, Massachusetts; prominent presidential candidate:

“If you don’t have a seat at the table, you’re probably on the menu.”

  • Bryant McGill, Best-selling author on Human Potential: “Choose to be pro-active, assertive, and self-defining.”
  • Nathaniel Branden, Canadian/American psychotherapist (now deceased) specializing in the area of self esteem: “To live assertively—which means to live authentically—is a high act of courage…”

There is certainly a case to be made for assertiveness (in the right setting and for the right  motives), but it often involves trading gentleness and humility for our own self-aggrandizement. 

Oswald Chambers, a Scottish evangelist who preached throughout the U.K., as well as the U.S. and Japan, died at the age of 43 while a chaplain to British troops in World War I, but his influence lives on through his classic book, “My Utmost for His Highest.”

In it he asks this question, which expresses the epitome of a person who is gentle: “Am I getting nobler, better, more helpful, more humble as I get older? Am I exhibiting a life [that reflects] having been with Jesus, or am I about getting more self-assertive, more deliberately determined to have my own way?”

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23) 

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