Use Your Gentle Side ("The Fruit of the Spirit is . . . gentleness . . .")

My fingernails were a mess. Ragged edges, broken corners, worn polish and no two the same length. Yuk! They looked pretty good before Christmas in preparation for parties but once the decorating, wrapping and price tag removing began they went bad fast. Plus, I stopped several times on my way in from the car to pull weeds from the soft ground. Well, my nails got soft too.

I decided to even them out and shape them up with the rough side of an emery board. Bad idea. I ended up shredding them and they looked worse than when I started. Too late, I remembered reading somewhere that there is rarely a need for the extra-abrasive side of an emery board. The gentle side shapes without shredding and nail clippers should be used to shorten a nail, then file smooth. Too bad this memory didn't kick in a little sooner.

I started again with this new information in mind and the outcome was much better. After a coat of clear polish my nails, while not gorgeous, were presentable again.

This mini-lesson reminded me of an analogy I used to use in training staff and volunteers in personal interactions and conflict resolution. The nail file. I would hold up an emery board and ask them to imagine it represented our attitudes and behavior. I would then ask which side would be most effective in smoothing snags in relationships. Which side would work best in our daily interaction with the people around us? Invariably, the response was the "gentle" side. They all received an emery board as a reminder. I must have lost mine as I seem to have forgotten.

All too often I scrape hearts with rough words or shred feelings with a scratchy attitude. Usually these are the hearts and feelings of the people I'm closest to and love the most. Why do I do this? Maybe because part of me knows they will love me anyway and won't throw me out to sleep on the street—so it's safe to let the not-so-nice side of myself loose. Well, it's not! My sharp tongue, bad attitude and temper tantrums create ragged nerves, broken trust, worn patience and uneven footing (walking on eggshells). This is not the Annie God desires. I represent Him in this world and need to give Him my rough edges and crummy feelings. The Holy Spirit lives in me and I need to let His fruit of gentleness be evident in my life.

Gentleness can be described as a soothing quality (like taking the sting out of a burn). It also means not losing your temper or becoming defensive. It can be expressed by controlling your conduct when you have the power to act otherwise. According to Webster's Dictionary, gentleness is "kindly, patient, tender, sensitive...not harsh or rough...."

It looks like my fingernails aren't the only parts of me that need smoothing and polishing. Thank You, Lord for using simple things to remind me of my weaknesses and of what you expect from this child of Yours.

"Let your gentleness be known to all. The Lord is near." Philippians 4:5


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