The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.
But the wisdom from Above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, without uncertainty or insincerity.
I love playing sports. I love watching sports. I have favorite teams that I root for. And when one of my teams is playing, I always want them to win, and not only do I want them to win, I want them to destroy the competition. When my team plays, I don’t want a close game. I want a blowout. And if my team is winning by a lot, I prefer they just run up the score on the opponent. Sounds gentle, right?
I also watch sports for entertainment. They are not real life. When I’m not watching sports, I try to make it not about winning and losing.
The problem with many people, including me on occasion (I still have lots of work to do on this), is that life resembles our favorite sports team and it shouldn’t. In order for us to have some success, we feel that others have to fail. I remember in school, there was this “cut-throat” attitude about grades. Motivated students wanted to get the top grades, but they hoped other students would get poor grades.
In modern times, in the “keeping up with the Joneses” sense of “competition,” we not only try to keep up, but we also want to get ahead, we want to be the Joneses, and we would like to see others in our wake.
In cultivating “gentleness” the goal is to give our best while also hoping for our neighbor to find success as well. Our success should not be possible only with their failure. We can succeed and enjoy watching others succeed as well.
Today’s Bible verse from James 3:17, tells us the “wisdom from Above is first pure.” The wisdom that comes from God is not cutthroat or competitive, it is pure. “Then peaceable” means that God’s wisdom promotes unity and harmony, it doesn’t set people against each other. It is “gentle” because God’s wisdom keeps us in control of our strengths… Mercy and competition are at odds with each other. In a competitive athletic situation, we are taught to show no mercy. The wisdom of God is “full of mercy” in the sense that it is open to everyone. Where there is mercy, there is no competition. Finally, in “competitive” work environments, there is “uncertainty and insincerity.” Because we have taken “athletic-type” competition into work environments, we promote environments of uncertainty and insincerity, even intentionally keeping people off balance so that they are never comfortable.
Gentleness shows concern for the peace of our neighbors. It takes away the competition and promotes not only inclusion but the success of all. In the ideal relationship, friendship, or work environment, there is both sincerity and certainty. There is an environment that ensures people are comfortable and secure and this is, in my opinion, the best way to get the best effort from people.
When I was in high school playing soccer, I was the goalkeeper. Our coach used to play games with my head. He would say things like “if you let in any goals today, I won’t play you in the next game.” He thought that was motivating. It wasn’t actually. I was so focused on losing my position that sometimes I was so nervous I didn’t play well, and even when I played well, I played on the edge. I never really enjoyed playing.
Perhaps this kind of attitude has a place in athletics. But it shouldn’t be the day-to-day reality in a job, a friendship, or a marriage. Gentleness seeks to promote the good of our neighbors and doesn’t make everything a competition where there are winners and losers. Athletics must have winners and losers. But in most other situations in life, everyone can win. And gentleness seeks this.
Lord, thank You for the many gifts and talents that You have given me (name some of them). Help me to do my best with what You’ve given me today. Help me to be a voice of encouragement to those around me, to encourage them to do the best they can with their gifts and rejoice with them in their successes. Amen.
Compliment your neighbor on his or her successes today!
Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015. The Prayer Team now has its own dedicated website!
Fr. Stavros has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany”: “https://amzn.to/2t1rXwh and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.” https://amzn.to/2WAcfG0
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