The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such there is no law. And those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
Where do I start?
We’ve all asked ourselves this question as we look at a pile of work on a desk, or a mess that needs to be cleaned up, or a life that is not going well. When faced with something massive, it is easy to wonder where to even begin.
If you are asking this question in relation to your spiritual life, your connection with Christ, or your overall outlook on something, a great place to start is with ANY of the Fruit of the Spirit. Saint Paul lists nine fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23. This list might even look a little daunting. After all, how can one master all nine of these? The fact is, they are all interrelated. Work on one, and you will automatically improve on the others. If you are looking for a place to start, or restart, your spiritual life, find one of these that you don’t think you are very good at, and focus on that. Focus on just one of these and connect with it on a daily basis.
All of the commandments can be boiled down to one word, love. Sin is the absence of love. Christ tells us that people will know we are Christians by how we love one another. Love is about sacrifice, service, and vulnerability.
Joy is about optimism and hope. Joy finds a reason for hope even on the darkest of days. Joy, gratitude, and grace all come from the same root. In Greek, the words are Hara (joy), Efharistia (gratitude), and Haris (grace). People who are joyful are more grateful and give more grace to others.
Peace is about de-escalating conflict, promoting harmony, and staying focus on Christ even when things are going wrong. The peace of Christ is not absence of conflict, which is how we usually define peace. It is the peace that comes in the midst of conflict.
Patience is about slowing things down. There are no two people who have equal skill at just about anything. One will always be better, faster, sharper, different. This is where patience comes in. Patience is related to empathy, which is when we put ourselves in the shoes of another. And in doing so, we give more time, more attention, more tolerance to others.
Kindness is about being compassionate and thoughtful. The opportunity for kindness happens most often with our words towards others. Many times we are rude and critical when it isn’t even necessary. Kindness is about being thoughtful with our words and our actions so as to not injure or demean others. And even when someone has wronged us, we find a way to correct them without being mean about it.
Goodness gravitates towards what is right, noble, and true. Goodness is not about being pretentious and fake, two things we see way too much of in the world today. When someone overflows with goodness, it is infectious. Goodness also includes worrying about the good of others, and looking out for their good as well as our own.
Faithfulness is about consistency. One who exercises faithfully does it on a daily or fairly regular basis. Faithful means to be checked in. Most people think that being unfaithful in marriage refers to cheating on your spouse. While it does include that, it also means being checked in with your spouse, or your children, or whatever you are being faithful to. Most important, the faithful person walks in step with God on a consistent basis.
Gentleness is sometimes referred to as meekness. And sadly, many people think that “meek” means “weak.” Remember the board game “Operation”? It’s where one has to remove “bones” from a “body” without touching the side of the holes where the bones are. This game requires a steady hand. Gentleness is about being in calm and temperate, being smooth rather than rough around the edges.
Self-control is about discipline. It’s about having discernment about what we say, what we do, what we think, what we see, how much we eat, how we spend our time, etc., anything that involves discipline and discernment. Self-control is also about being responsible for what has been given to us, starting with our very breath, the life we enjoy, the days we are blessed to live.
When a soul finds itself wounded, many times it is because the Fruit of the Spirit are not ripe within a person. This can be changed quickly by focusing on even one of the Fruits and cultivating it. As you can see, the Fruits are very closely related. Do one right, and the others will follow closely behind.
In Matthew 7:17-20, Jesus says “Every sound tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears evil fruit. A sound tree cannot bear evil fruit nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will know them by their fruits.” In mentioning the Fruit of the Spirit in the Sixth Epistle reading, we are reminded that the work of the soul is to cultivate good fruit, and if the soul has been wounded, that it be healed so that it can once again bring forth fruit that spiritually sound.
As you receive the hymns and supplications of your servants, All-pure Virgin, so all deliver from irksome ills and maladies those, who through us, flee unto your Divine protection. (9th Ode)
Choose one of the Fruit of the Spirit and concentrate on cultivating it!