On Being Gentle

Whenever I teach a yoga class, I preface almost every change in position with the words, “Now please gently…”

One time a student called out, “Why do you always say gently?”

Good question.

Gentleness is not something most Americans know much about. Our approach to life is marked by force, attitude, determination, control, tenacity, a ‘git-r-done’ mentality. While none of that is wrong in and of itself, they most often militate against any “gentleness consciousness.”

We speed down the road in a hurry to get to our next task. We jockey for the best parking space at the store. We set things down with a bang/clang. We consume our meal as if it is the “Passover” and we need to be ready to flee. Even the way we tread upon the earth lacks gentleness.  Rice Paper Walk

When we are trying to persuade another of the rightness of our opinion, we raise our voice, intensify our language or tone–not gentle.

The Buddhist practice of “ahimsa” keeps gentleness in the forefront of the practitioner’s consciousness so that all they do is wrapped with gentleness.

What do Christians have in the way of a gentle practice? “A bruised reed he will not break, nor a smoldering flax will he not put out.” (Matt. 12:20) (When was the last time you heard a sermon from that verse?)

We often see the phrase referring to the “gentle Savior,” but we rarely find a gentle disciple. Yet Jesus said, “It is enough that the disciple be as his master.” (Matt. 10:25)

Gentleness should mark the life of one who considers himself spiritual. Gentleness should be the characteristic of all that we do in thought, word, and deed.

Why is gentleness in such short supply?

In what way could you practice being gentle today?

 

 

 

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Self-Control: Fruit of a Spiritual Life

The question posed from previous posts is: what does a spiritual person look like?

Within the context of our passage–Gal. 5:16-6:1–we find that a spiritual person is marked by the evidence of “fruit” in his/her life. This is taken from vss. 22-23: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…”

Now the question naturally arises, “What does this fruit look like?”

There is much discussion in today’s society about love, and what that means. Some folks actually get upset and forget to love when their particular view of love is not accepted by others. (Oh well. We’ll get it someday, I’m sure.) 🙂 For the time being, I will leave that discussion until a future post. Consequently, I will begin with the last–Self-Control.

What does self-control look like?

The word so translated, was rendered “temperance” by the King Jimmy translators; but “temperance has come to denote only one form of self-control. Therefore, it is no longer a viable rendition for the word.

However, we will begin with the idea of “temperance.” Originally, it meant “moderation.” Because of the “temperance movement,” it came to mean abstinence.

Temperance (Sophrosyne in Greek is defined as “moderation in action, thought, or feeling; restraint.”) has been studied by religious thinkers, philosophers, and more recently, psychologists, particularly in the positive psychology movement. It is considered a virtue, a core value that can be seen consistently across time and cultures (see Historical and Religious Perspectives). It is considered one of the four cardinal virtues, for it is believed that no virtue could be sustained in the face of inability to control oneself, if the virtue was opposed to some desire. It is also one of the six main categories of the VIA Character Strengths (see Major Theoretical Approaches). Temperance is generally defined by control over excess, so that it has many such classes, such as abstinence, chastity, modesty, humility, prudence, self-regulation, forgiveness and mercy; each of these involves restraining some impulse, such as sexual desire, vanity, or anger. (Wikipedia)

I hope you read that paragraph above with a conscious awareness. Did you get that? Self-control should be considered as the priority virtue, because no other virtue will stand if there is an inability to control oneself.

Wow! What a concept.

Of course, this thought is reinforced in Ecclesiastes 10:1 where we are told that a momentary act of stupidity can ruin a lifetime of achievement. We see this almost everyday, especially during an election campaign.

However, down here at street-level, we need to know how this works.

We all know people who seem to be quite loving in their nature. However, when they are pressed by certain circumstances, that love is nowhere to be seen.

Take a look at the list of the fruit of the spirit once again: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.

Do you know someone who seems to be patient–until patience is called for?

Do you know someone who seems to be kind, but gets upset when their kindness is not recognized?

Do you know someone who is gentle until they get out on the highway?

Are you beginning to get a picture of what self-control might look like?

Self-control is a young person’s discipline. It becomes more difficult as one gets older, having established patterns for the way they handle things. (I’m not saying it is impossible for an older person.) If you have not exercised the discipline of self-control in your younger years, it becomes extremely challenging to find it in your later years.

What area of your life do you need to exercise self-control?

What can you do to begin strengthening temperance in that area?

What one thing will you do today to move yourself in that direction?

Leave your comments below and help us all to better understand this most challenging fruit of a spiritual life.

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