“Be gentle!” a directive we have all heard at some point in our childhood. So, why have we been reminded to “be gentle” with others and things? St. Paul in his letter to the Philippians says, “let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near” (4:5). In this verse, we first see the relationship between Christ and the fruit of Gentleness, indicating its importance. With this as encouragement, let’s look to the moments we intentionally wish to be gentle.
As my wife and I eagerly await the birth of our first child, we simultaneously anticipate the first moments that we will hold our precious baby. I can say, without a doubt, that parents embody gentleness itself when they hold a newborn child in their arms for the first time. What they are showing through their tender gentleness is an uncompromising love. This love is what St. Paul is calling us to when he commands us to be gentle with everyone. The Lord, who is Love itself, is near. He who so often, “desired to gather [His] children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings,” is calling us to show this same gentleness (Mat. 23:37b).
In what concrete ways are educators able to bring an authentic gentleness into the classroom? One approach is to invite students to take personal responsibility for their faith. By taking the initiative, the student moves from a passive to an active participant. In these moments of deliberately living out the faith, they will at times falter, just like the rest of us. Here is when your gentleness must be expressed. Through gentle encouragement, rather than retribution, we can point them back to Christ. On the other hand, if reprimanding students in these moments, the response is typically rebellion or conformity which turns them away from the Love which we desire them to personally encounter. However, with gentle encouragement, we affirm their experiences and can help them see how these occurrences relate to the Truth and Love of God. When a student recognizes that they will not be scolded or neglected when they wrestle or fall, they develop a desire to continue seeking a unity between their personal experiences and the Truth.
So, be gentle! In doing so, we participate in building the Kingdom of God
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