The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.
Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord, keep watch over the door of my lips!
We’ve all heard the phrase “like a bull in a china shop.” This describes a person who seems reckless and is a threat to break everything around them. In the “china shop,” the reckless person is scary to be around. You can’t look at the things that are for sale with patience and interest for fear that the person around you is going to break things and get you kicked out of the store.
We’ve all heard the phrase “a little rough around the edges.” This describes someone who can gently be described as unrefined. They lack social graces, perhaps don’t express themselves well, and are generally annoying.
We all know people who fit these two descriptions. Perhaps at times, we are all a little bit like this. The “bull in the china shop” and the “rough around the edges” people are the opposite of gentle. The gentle person is “careful” in the china shop, realizing that everything there is fragile and breakable. The gentle person realizes that we are always in the “china shop,” we are constantly surrounded by people who are fragile, and whose self-esteem is very breakable.
The gentle person strives to have “smooth edges.” They are as worried about prim and proper social graces and refinements – they may not be the snappiest dressers or have knowledge of fine wines – but they seek to bring smoothness and calm to relationships and situations. It’s like they walk around with figurative “sandpaper” and smooth out rough comments, bring hope to rough situations, and mediate rough relationships.
We’ve all heard of people who are described as “gentle souls.” This doesn’t mean that they are pushovers, can’t hold an important job, make a decent salary, or enjoy life. A “gentle soul” is one who brings calm into chaos, who looks out for the little guy, who makes sure that people are included, and who is careful in what they say and do. A gentle soul takes to heart today’s scripture verse from Psalms, living with a guarded mouth, and a watchful mind. Just like “meek” doesn’t mean “weak,” “gentle” doesn’t mean “no fun.” Gentle again means “controlled strength.” And in today’s examples, gentle means careful and smooth.
So, the tough question becomes “will anyone describe you as gentle?” Are you the bull in the china shop? Are you rough around the edges? Or are you the gentle shopper? Do you carry around “sandpaper?”
Probably every day we encounter people who are rough around the edges, and we encounter bulls in china shops. Every day we enter the china shop of fragile people and have a choice whether to be careful or dangerous. We can decide whether to make a situation rougher or to make it smoother. The person who seeks to become gentle is cognizant of these situations on a daily basis.
We’ve all been around little children who have no concept of danger, order, or consequences. Anyone who is old enough to read this message should not act like a small child. We should be cognizant of danger, order, and consequences. Gentleness, like the other fruits, is a choice. It is also something that is easy to develop, once you recognize that those around you are fragile, and make a deliberate decision to slow things down enough to make rough patches smooth – first refining our own attitudes to attitudes of gentleness and then encouraging others to do the same.
Lord, help me to be aware of fragile people and situations that I will encounter today. Help me to be careful in what I say and what I do. Help me to see others with sensitivity, and to be able to smooth over rough situations I find myself in. Help me always to be a voice of calmness and to encourage others to be the best they can be. Amen.
Be gentle around fragile people and situations. Carry “sandpaper” so you can smooth out rough situations today. Strive to be a gentle soul!
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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