Gentleness: Nurturing a strong family life

Communication between teens and their parents can sometimes deteriorate to uproar situations. What begins as a polite conversation can, without warning, become a shouting match. Parents of teens need a special measure of God's grace if they are to survive this phase of family life with their sanity intact. They need a bumper crop of the fruit of the Spirit. But for us to harvest spiritual fruit, we must do those things that cultivate the fruit of the Spirit in our lives and in our relationships.

I recently heard a radio commercial extolling the virtues of the kiwi fruit. I don't remember the details of the commercial, but I do remember I was urged to rush out and buy this misunderstood fruit. If I would only try this fruit, I would recognize its wonderful taste as well as its benefits.

Maybe we need a radio commercial for Paul's fruit of the Spirit list from Galatians 5:22-23. How long has it been since you, as the parent of a teen, have taken a bite of meekness (as it is referred to in KJV)? Maybe you have avoided it because you don't like its taste. Perhaps you prefer other portions of the fruit of the Spirit because you simply don't understand meekness.

Would you take a chance on this fruit if you called it by its more contemporary name, gentleness? Let me describe the flavor. Forget words like doormat or submissive. Words that adequately describe the flavor are: modesty, gentleness, and courtesy.

The Greek word of meekness or gentleness was used of a horse that had been trained. The horse had lost none of its strength, but it was now gentle and controlled by its master. Parents who nurture this fruit of the Spirit have a gentle, inner strength. The parent remains the authority but doesn't display this in a rigid or harsh way.

Parents who possess gentleness are able to maintain their God-given role as parents by providing discipline and guidance as well as tenderness and affection. We can be firm but gentle.

Conversations between parents and teens who nurture the fruit of the Spirit are courteous. Admittedly, parents and teens both have "hot buttons"-words or issues that set us off emotionally. Even parents can stoop to using these issues as a way of getting back at their teen. More often than not, to do so becomes counterproductive. Oh, the wisdom of Solomon for parents: A gentle answer turns away wrath (Prov. 15:1).

The home becomes the training ground for all other relationships in life. Communication and relational patterns that we learn as children stay with us throughout our adulthood.

The Scripture clearly tells us: to let our gentleness be evident to all (Phil. 4:5). Our gentleness needs to start in our homes with our own children. Quiet parental strength expressed in the form of gentleness and courtesy to one another makes a positive difference in the atmosphere of family life as well as the future of teens.

John Lepper is a family minister, writer, husband, and father from Kentucky.


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