How to Develop a Gentle Spirit in a Loud and Proud World

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By Annie Yorty

“Your beauty should not consist of outward things like elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold ornaments or fine clothes. Instead, it should consist of what is inside the heart with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very valuable in God’s eyes.” 1 Peter 3:3-4 HCSB

I am always drawn to people who exhibit gentleness. Their soothing approach to life contrasts wildly with my own driven personality. 

God values a gentle, or meek, spirit. According to the apostle Peter, this inner quality should outshine any outward physical attribute we display. 

What God values, He rewards.

Matthew 5:5 says, “The gentle are blessed, for they will inherit the earth.”

Let’s unpack the keywords in this short, but powerful, verse.

The gentle are blessed, for they will inherit the earth. Matthew 5:5Click to Tweet

Keyword #1: Gentle

The Oxford English Dictionary defines gentle as “having or showing a mild, kind, or tender temperament or character.” 

Some Bible translations interchange gentle and meek. 

Meek carries with it the additional connotation of being easily imposed on.

Our world does not value gentleness or meekness. Grab what you can get. Make your voice heard. Demand. You deserve it. These types of messages bombard us hourly.

But God greatly esteems the humility of gentleness. He desires reliance on Him rather than reliance on self. 

christian woman studying her bible on her couch

In fact, Jesus warns those who elevate themselves. 

Matthew 19:30 says, “But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”

The word gentle takes another dimension when considered as a verb referring to a horse. A wild horse should be “gentled” by a trainer so it will become responsive to instructions. Only then can a horse’s strength be harnessed. 

In the same way, God wants us to “be gentled” by inviting Him to tame our wild, uncontrolled nature. 

Only then will our strength become productive and useful in His kingdom.

God greatly esteems the humility of gentleness. He desires reliance on Him rather than reliance on self.Click to Tweet

Keyword #2: Blessed

I am a northerner who lived in the south for many years. There’s a phrase southerners like to say: “Bless your heart.” 

I quickly learned this phrase is used in many different contexts, and not all of them are nice.

Jesus also uses the word bless—blessed, to be exact—but His meaning is quite precise.

We commonly understand the term blessed to mean “having a good thing.”

We often say things like, “God has blessed me with a new car” or “We’re so blessed here in America,” referring to the material things we enjoy. 

Indeed, these are blessings, and we should be thankful for them.

But Jesus goes much deeper. His meaning conveys complete satisfaction or happiness that comes from our relationship with God.

christian woman praying to God | gentle spirit

The usual definition based on material things is short-lived and temporal. God’s idea of blessed is an inner state of being that is lasting and perpetual. 

The only true source of biblical blessedness is our eternal God. 

The only true source of biblical blessedness is our eternal God.Click to Tweet

Keyword(s) #3: Inherit the Earth

In Matthew 5:5, Jesus says, “the gentle shall inherit the earth.” What an unusual statement! 

In our world, it seems that only the powerful, the driven, and the strong control the earth. How can we understand this gentle power paradox?

An inheritance usually comes to someone after another person dies. In Ephesians, Paul declares that we who believe in Christ obtained an inheritance from Him.

We have also received an inheritance in Him, predestined according to the purpose of the One who works out everything in agreement with the decision of His will, so that we who had already put our hope in the Messiah might bring praise to His glory.” Ephesians 1:11-12 HCSB

Christ died so we might have an inheritance. Pause and let that thought sink in. Certainly, the inheritance first and foremost involves eternal life. 

Two women talking and encouraging one another

But Jesus says the gentle will also inherit the earth. This may refer to a future promise regarding dominion of the world after Christ’s second coming, but I suspect it also contains a promise for today. 

Psalm 37 provides an important clue. David admonishes his audience about staying calm despite the world’s evil because the Lord is trustworthy. 

David’s assertation, “the humble will inherit the land and enjoy abundant prosperity (Ps 37:11),” mirrors Christ’s declaration about gentleness in Matthew 5:5. 

The full text of this Psalm enumerates how our Father God sustains, guides, vindicates, and delivers His children. 

Our eternal inheritance from God produces unshakeable confidence in the face of chaos, and quiet, controlled strength undeterred by evil. 

This biblical truth illuminates how people with a gentle spirit can inherit the earth right here and now.

Our eternal inheritance from God produces unshakeable confidence in the face of chaos, and quiet, controlled strength undeterred by evil.Click to Tweet

How Can I Develop a Gentle Spirit?

We find the answer to this question in John 3:25-30. John the Baptist’s disciples were complaining about people flocking to Jesus instead of John. 

Their attitudes were more “loud and proud” than “meek and gentle,” so John quickly rebuked them:  “He [Jesus] must increase, but I must decrease (Jn 3:30).”

But still, how do we develop a gentle spirit?

I speak from experience when I say that relying on willpower won’t cut it.

True change works from the inside out as we surrender to Christ. If you’ve never turned to Jesus in repentance for your sins, this is the first step. 

Beyond that, those of us who have already received salvation need to release sinful attitudes or habits. 

Submit them to Jesus, and invite Him to transform you into His gentle likeness.

As we surrender more and more to God, we should notice new habits of gentleness forming.

two women praying together at a group Bible study | gentle spirit

6 Habits to Help You Cultivate a Gentle Spirit

G – Give all glory to God.

When the spotlight finds you, purpose to redirect worldly accolades to God. Recognize that He is the giver of everything good, and you can accomplish nothing without His power.

E – Excuse offenses.

Choose to believe the best about others’ motives. When wronged, prepare your heart and mind to forgive by recognizing and thanking God for forgiveness He freely gives.

N – Notice the accomplishments of others.

Find genuine ways to compliment or point out the work of others. Choose contentment in all things, even if only God notices your work.

T – Take a back seat.

Trust God and put others first. Delay your own gratification and choose to meet the needs of others.

L – Listen more and speak less.

Pause and hear the other person fully before thoughtfully replying, especially during conflict. A gentle and slow answer holds off anger (Pr 15:1). 

E – Extend peace to others.

Avoid foolish arguments, gossip, and drama. Refuse to be easily offended and allow God to defend you in His time and in His way.

Recognize that God is the giver of everything good, and you can accomplish nothing without His power.Click to Tweet

Friends, Christ is the ultimate example of a gentle spirit. Because of His Spirit living within our hearts, we can be gentle and meek also. 

Gentleness is counter-cultural. Displaying meekness in a loud and proud world will cause us to stick out like a harp solo at a heavy metal concert. And that’s the idea. 

People should notice that we are different. 

God’s people, imitating Jesus’ gentle spirit, will influence the earth more powerfully than any worldly force.

-Annie Yorty

Annie Yorty is a writer, speaker, and lifelong learner. Annie writes a blog, Perceive God, where her mission is to teach and encourage others to discover their true needs and find sources of support and hope. She applies this calling to many interests including disability advocacy, global missions, homeschooling, Bible teaching, and mentoring. Life in Pennsylvania is both fun and challenging with her high school sweetheart, two grown children (one with disabilities), a teen, and a furry beast (a.k.a. labradoodle).

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