Our temper, which includes explosive anger and simmering malice, is the dark side of our flesh. The Spirit wants to help us with it.
3 Those who guard their lips [filter what they say] preserve their lives, but those who speak rashly [out of anger] will come to ruin.
10 Where there is strife, there is pride [our pride causes us to cause strife], but wisdom is found in those who take advice.
18 Whoever disregards discipline [refuses to listen to the Spirit and put into practice what they know] comes to [relational] poverty and shame, but whoever heeds correction is honored [over time].
The key for me was the eighth fruit of the Spirit: Gentleness. The fruit are: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-Control. God brought my daughter to me from a local VBS one summer day; she had memorized Philippians 4:4-5 as a project. It says,
4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.
The Lord stabbed me through the heart with that verse! He showed me in a flash that I was not gentle relationally with my girls and He wanted me to change that. I began to search for Scriptures that have to do with gentleness, patience, kindness, forbearance–anything that would help me focus on what I need rather than just my problem. I asked the Spirit to begin teaching me how to be gentle. It was a long process…!
The first thing I noticed as I watched to see what triggered my anger was that I had expectations. There are three types of bad expectations: Unspoken, Unmet, and Unrealistic. I had all three. The first thing I did was apologize to my kids for not being gentle with them; my wife, too. I began to watch my tone, the look in my eyes, and to allow for error, interpretation, personality, and circumstances. My goal was to be the gentlest person I could be. It took two years! Do I still fail? Sure, but God understands. Why? Because He is the Essence of Gentleness. He’s the One who taught me!
It is interesting that as I worked on gentleness, I also learned patience, kindness and goodness. I was faithful in my efforts and learned self-control. When I was successful, the love of the Father, the peace of the Son, and the joy of the Spirit washed over me. I became a more joyful, peaceful, and loving person! It’s certainly worth the effort.
Today, try stepping back from a frustrating situation with your family and allowing the Spirit to control your mouth and your eyes, and even your body language. Try to infuse a loving and peaceful flavor to the conversation (humor helps, but nothing with a barb). Being late to church because your daughter had to change her outfit three times is NOT the end of the world. Figure out for next week what will circumvent the situation (have her pick out her outfit the night before; get dressed BEFORE your kids get up; ask the Lord and He will help). Knowing that worship begins before we leave the house should help us to explain to our children the goal of keeping a Christ-honoring attitude as we prepare for church.
Abba, I hope my readers get an opportunity this morning to put some of these spiritual techniques into practice. If not this week, then next week for sure! Remind them of the importance of working on growing the fruit of the Spirit in our lives. Help them hear Your voice and feel Your nudges as You work with us. Your voice is so subtle–it sounds like mine. The only way I can tell the difference is that I know that what You are saying is right; it’s what is needed at that moment for the moment. You reveal the right thing to do, and when we submit to Your voice, You empower us to do it–or not do it (like thinking about what I’m going to say and then not saying it). Make us a gentle people, O Lord. Make us like You. Amen.