The Gentle Life

Learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart. Mat. 11:29

Paul encouraged the Christians in Ephesus to ”be completely humble and gentle” (Eph. 4:2). Jesus also, from the perfection of His own example, invites us to emulate these same traits. They are evidence of grace in Christians who, because of their faith, are gently poised in relationship to all the circumstances of their lives.

The spirit of gentleness receives life graciously, without need to manipulate or force it to be other than it is. It measures its own engagement with life more minimally than the spiritual footprint left by those who are anxious. We lose the gentle spirit whenever our lives are overly defined by impatience, or by imperatives for the way things should be.

In his book, Spirituality and the Gentle Life, Adrian Van Kaam describes the gentle person as “one in whom there is a friendly accord between themselves and their life situation.” This disposition is most expressive of faith and grace. Van Kaam describes the freedom that gentleness produces in us.

Gentleness is an attitude of letting be, combined with a patient abiding with myself or with the person, task, or problem God calls me to be involved in. This attitude leads to peace and contentment. The gentle person is more free. He can take himself and the world as they are because he feels free to be himself and to let all things be with the same gentility.

Gentleness is also directly related to our experience of God. Aggressiveness of spirit diminishes our congeniality—the trait most needed to live in communion with the humility of God. It is difficult to be open to the gentle spirit of Christ when we find ourselves in an agitated state. Gentleness, therefore, is a prerequisite to remaining in sensate relationship with God. In the spirit of gentleness it becomes easier to pray, to meditate, and to stay attuned to the movements of God’s Spirit. Van Kaam writes,

Gentle reflection proceeds in an atmosphere of leisure and repose. Its quiet presence to divine things is animated by a desire to be at home with God in love—a love that itself is a grace of God.

The more gentle we are in relationship to God’s presence within us, the more hospitable we will seem to the Spirit. As St. John of the Cross noted, “God dwells in some souls as though in His own house; in others He dwells as though a stranger in a strange house, where they do not permit him to do or touch anything.” A gentle soul is more disposed to welcome God’s movement than someone who feels they need to control their spiritual experience.

Jesus presents Himself as gentle and humble of heart. He then invites us to be closely yoked with Him in the character of His life. By imitating Christ in these virtues we prepare an environment for the Lord to more fully dwell in us, as though in His own house.

What we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him.

1John 3:2