A Soft Answer

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The fruit of the Spirit … is gentleness. –Galatians 5:22, 23 NIV

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. –Proverbs 15:1 NIV

Let your gentleness be evident to all. –Philippians 4:5 NIV

“I hate you!” screamed my friend’s little boy as she held him, squirming and kicking, in her lap and struggled to put sneakers on his busy feet. It was time to go, and the toddler didn’t want the visit to end.

“Well,” she answered gently, tying his shoelaces and planting a soft kiss on his cheek, “I love you.”

I was amazed. If that were me, I would have turned him over my knee and spanked his little wriggling behind but good.

As a grandmother, I’m much gentler than I was as a mother, and in everyday life, I find I’m holding my tongue better than I used to—except when I’m behind the wheel of my vehicle or when I attended my son’s baseball games.

Every driver who doesn’t use turn signals, passes in a no passing zone, tailgates me, slows me down by driving below the speed limit, or neglects to turn on the headlights when it’s hard to see because of rain, snow, fog, or dusk, is, in my opinion, an idiot. While I don’t succumb to road rage, my mouth goes a mile a minute and the words are none too gentle. Which is why I don’t have one of those “Honk if you love Jesus” bumper stickers on my vehicle.

And at baseball games, it was hard to respond in a gentle manner when the umpire made an obviously bad call that went against the team I rooted for, especially in a close game where one call could change the momentum of the whole game. Before the last series, I promised God I’d behave and keep my mouth shut. But when the home plate umpire called one of our runners out at second after the base umpire had called him safe—and from my vantage point in the stands behind the plate, he was safe—I yelled that he was making it hard for me to keep my promise.

At that point my husband turned to me. I couldn’t tell if he was embarrassed or amused.

“Behave yourself,” he said, nodding to the seat in front of us, where our grandson Brent, who had just started Little League, booed. “You’re not setting a good example.”

So I kept my mouth shut and only groaned when the umpire called a homerun a foul ball. I gave him the benefit of the doubt and agreed with my husband that the foul pole needed to be higher.

“I hope this guy doesn’t umpire any games for the playoffs,” I couldn’t resist adding.

That was years ago, but I learned how important it was to stop and consider what the other parents thought when someone who claimed to be a Christian yelled at the umpire like I did. Bad calls are part of baseball, from Little League to the professional leagues. While it’s okay to disagree, it’s not okay to be disagreeable and unkind.

Being gentle means to treat others with kindness, consideration, and respect because, no matter who they are, they have value in God’s eyes. Jesus set the example when He embraced the children the disciples tried to shoo away and when He had dinner with despised tax collectors who, to the Jews, were little more than scumbags, but to Him were hungry souls needing love, mercy, and grace.

Can I do any less?

Dear God, grow Your gentleness in me. Amen.

Read and reflect on Ephesians 4:1–3.

From God, Me, & a Cup of Tea, Vol. 3, © 2019 Michele Huey. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

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