My friend’s student son wasn’t sure about a compliment he’d been given – “They said I’m gentle”, he complained, “but that doesn’t sound very manly”.
Oh but it is –
Would you apply the word “gentle” to a goldfish? Or a hamster? Or a tortoise?
No! We reserve the word for things that have the potential, or the ability to hurt us. We might apply it to a lion (but only in a story) and we would apply it to a horse (knowing that it could injure us badly). We would also use it to compliment a strong man. Gentleness has nothing to do with weakness.
Perhaps you remember the children’s hymn, “Gentle Jesus, meek and mild...”? The expression, “gentle Jesus” does not appear in the Bible, but it is true to New Testament descriptions of our Saviour. Paul speaks of “the gentleness of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:1). But Jesus looked powerful enough, and spoke with sufficient authority, to chase the money changers out of the temple. However, by contrast, Jesus “took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them” (Mark 10:16 NIV). Ultimately, that most gentle of men had the courage and fortitude to selflessly face the cross.
Gentleness has a noble pedigree.
If you’re a man, and someone describes you as ‘gentle’, be pleased about it. They are recognising your strength and admiring your wisdom, your care, and your self control. Gentleness doesn’t imply weakness, but restraint. It shows itself when a person has strength, but chooses to hold back the power, or to use it to protect someone vulnerable. Sometimes, speaking of a powerfully-built man, we hear people speak of a “gentle giant” – and that’s a compliment.
The world needs men whose self-confidence is sufficient that they don’t need to assert themselves, or to prove their strength. We need men who will use their abilities (whatever they are), to guide the young, and to protect the weak. We need men who have the moral backbone to be strong – with gentleness.