"Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear." ~Ephesians 4:29 (NRSV).
One of the reasons I love taking public transport from time to time is the study one can make of human behaviour in public places. One such occasion an earlier bus hadn't arrived and as a result we patrons boarded what became a very crowded vehicle. It was a trying experience for many; being late, many unseated, and a thirty minute trip of heavy and sudden braking to look forward to.
One man was standing near the tagging-off point, and at one stop had to shuffle about four times just to allow others to get off - some of which were visibly frustrated. As the bus then went on its way he quickly recovered from the fluster of the moment and merely said, with a wry smile, "Bit like a dance, isn't it?"
This guy had every right to be equally frustrated - even to mutter under his breath as one of the alighting patrons had done. But instead, he epitomised the Apostle Paul's abovementioned imperative.
He demonstrated the unique strength in gentleness.
IS THERE A MORE ADMIRABLE TRAIT THAN GENTLENESS?
Human nature is an excellent study, particularly the genders.
When we put gentleness under the microscope there are typical male responses and typical female responses. Let's consider our gentlemen on the bus who turned a potentially angering situation into humour - the strength of gentleness.
Your typical male will respond to such a person in a number of ways; but hardly ever in aggression. Such assured gentleness quells motives of battle as it lightens the mood.
Many males struggle with anger, as do females, but men have extra challenges in harnessing the combination of psychology, cultural norms, testosterone levels and physical strength. Gentleness doesn't come natural.
The female response is most interesting. Without letting on, it was the female populace on the bus that day that appreciated this overture of gentleness most, I suspect. Firstly, this guy defused, at humour, quite a tense situation. Secondly, male gentleness is commonly endearing to women. Women appreciate gentleness in men, and often they may not know fully why - they just do.
God, as always, turns the tables so far as strength is concerned. Real strength is known by the grace we demonstrate in resisting anger, converting it to humour or humility or a helping hand. Gentleness makes it possible to respond in grace.
Gentleness is power to act as an agent of God in a world that sees sparingly little of the Divine. It is the power to restore joy to otherwise sad faces. Most importantly, it is the power to see God operating through us to our world.
Steve Wickham is a Registered Safety Practitioner (BSc, FSIA, RSP[Australia]) and a qualified, unordained Christian minister (GradDipBib&Min). His blogs are at: epitemnein-epitomic.blogspot.com and tribework.blogspot.com