Gentle As a Grizzly Bear

All of us struggle with different pieces of our personality. Some may wrestle with being overbearing, rude, or arrogant. Others may struggle with being assertive, making decisions, or handling multiple things at once. As a Christian man, a bench-mark I have always looked at to measure myself are the qualifications listed for elders in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1. Whether you are looking to be an elder or not, all Christians, at whatever stage of their growth in Christ, can look to these as great standards to live by. We should all seek to be self-controlled, not lovers of money, not quarrelsome, managing our homes well, and being hospitable towards others. We should all seek to be above reproach in whatever we do. As I've looked through these lists recently, one characteristic that I need to continually work on in my heart is being gentle.

Gentleness is not only listed as a qualification for elder, but also as a fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5. That means it's something I need the Spirit's help with and something that should be getting stronger in my character. However, I struggle with this one. I've heard from different people that I can come off as "unapproachable" with how I talk and act. Over time, being abrasive like that can lead to no one feeling comfortable even having a conversation with me. I guess I can be like a grizzly bear at times. Sure, grizzly bears look soft and kind of lumber around slowly, but you would never just walk up to one and start petting it. You would observe from a distance and only approach when you felt completely safe.

In the same way, I can smile and try to look friendly, but if I've built the reputation of being harsh or critical, I will still be unapproachable and others won't feel comfortable talking with me. That's where gentleness comes in. I need to cultivate this fruit of the Spirit, not as an actor learning to be something he's not, but as a Christian seeking to be more like Christ. This means I need to listen more and speak less. I have to allow for others opinions and not assume mine is the most important. I need to be careful when I chose to give input and speak in such a way that is encouraging.

Christ is the greatest example of this. Here he was, the King of kings and Lord of lords; the one imbued with all power and authority in earth and heaven. Yet, he was approached by all kinds of people. He was gentle and humble, kind in His words and compassionate with those that came to Him. He didn't shy away from speaking truth in a bold way, but He spoke what was needed and was loved by those who needed Him.

As I think about this more, I would encourage you to examine your own hearts. I am thankful that God hasn't left me to fend for myself on this one, but has promised to enable me to grow into the man He wants me to become.

"Therefore... work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure."  ~Philippians 2:12-13

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