I remember it like it was yesterday. I had just told him to do something that he didn’t want to do. His response: He stood in the hall, screaming til he was red in the face, “I DON’T WANT TO!!!. I stood there flabbergasted. Where on earth did my child learn such behavior? Sadly, it didn’t take long to find the answer. He learned it from me.
It was this incident that solidified in me a lesson that many veteran moms tried to teach me: Kids are the most consistent accountability you will ever have. They are watching not only your every move, but listening to your every word, soaking in every tone.
The Old Man Knocking
The above example is one of many where I stood, first in shock, then in shame over the behavior of my children. I am ashamed to say that I spent the first year of our youngest son’s life angry. Yelling, storming out of rooms, and slamming doors was not uncommon in my behaviors. Thanks be to God for pulling me out of that pit. Not to say I don’t default back to old attitudes from time to time, but He has brought me so far!
But my old self has imprinted on my children. And now I find myself struggling with the product of my sinful example. The harshness and explosive frustration of my four year old is a daily struggle. I feel hypocritical for disciplining him for a behavior he learned from me. I fear it confuses him to see mommy say “you need to speak kindly to your brother” in a very unkind way. However, it is this fact that keeps me coming before God, asking for strength to be gentle toward my kids. Their frustrations that so closely mirror my own keep me running to the arms of my Savior.
Strength to be Gentle
Gentleness is hard. I didn’t use to think so. But motherhood is showing me that it is in fact one of the hardest parts of the journey. I don’t want to speak gently to my boys when they have done nothing but whine at me. It’s not a natural thing for me to respond in gentleness when I’m being ignored. But I know that my kids are watching me. I see it in their actions and words everyday. So I know that if I demonstrate gentleness in my actions they will be more likely to do the same. The question is, how do I make gentleness a habit? The answer: I CAN’T.
Only one Being has the ability to be gentle with people who continually whine and complain to Him. Only one Father responds gently to the rebellion of His children. Only one Man preached “love your enemies” and then lived that command out perfectly even in the midst of an agonizing death. And only one Spirit has the power to plant then grow in us the fruit of gentleness (Gal. 5:22-23). In short, only someone with divine strength can be habitually gentle.
Strength is needed for gentleness? Absolutely. As I stated earlier, to be gentle with those who have wronged or even annoyed us goes against our nature, our sin nature that is. Therefore we must have the strength to fight the temptations to respond as our old self would have. But again, this kind of strength can only come from above. Which means that you can use the most efficient habit tracking charts or software or the greatest self discipline, but if you aren’t praying for strength, then you WILL fail.
Nothing to do but pray
I know I sound preachy. But I need to say these things to myself. Even today I was scolding my children for being incapable of cleaning their room. Do they need lecturing? No. They need gentle guidance and loving correction in order to learn how to handle the responsibility of cleaning their room. And if I’m being honest, I have NO IDEA how to do that.
This is why I haven’t listed some practical “how to be more gentle” tips. I am am not a gentle person. But I want to be and the only way will happen is through the Lord working in my life, gently teaching, guiding, and correcting me. The thing is, I’ve never received unsolicited advice from God, Which means I must seek this strength and guidance through Scripture reading and prayer.
If gentleness is something your struggle with, I’d love for you to leave a comment so that I can join in praying for God to work in our lives to produce more gentleness in order that He will receive more glory.