In recent years I have begun to experience God’s gentleness as a part of who He is and what He offers me. Gentleness, like each of the fruits of the Spirit, is something to receive. It is defined as deliberate kindness in dealing with others.

As a parent, I have been faced with how often I deal with my children in deliberate harshness instead of deliberate kindness. I long to move toward them in love and gentleness and end up doing the opposite. I eventually realized that this stems from a deliberate harshness and judgement in the way that I deal with myself. So began a practice of receiving God’s gentleness toward me, that then leads to a gentleness toward myself, and finally a gentleness toward others.

Teresa of Avila said, “Removing yourself from judgement, from your own and from others’, and being open to love is the greatest gift you can give the world.” What if judgement is the opposite of gentleness? Judgement so often comes from a lack of love. Gentleness with self comes out of a deep understanding that we are dearly loved. When we live into that, we can allow ourselves to be as we are. When we know in our bodies that we are deeply loved by God, we can allow others to be, and simply love them as they are.

Today I dealt harshly with my children. I hate it. But what if instead of beating myself up, in repentance I am gentle with myself? What if I know and receive God’s forgiveness and unending mercy? What if I rest in the reality that I am dearly loved? What if that reality sinks deep into my bones? Maybe tomorrow I will carry even just a little more gentleness than I did today.