Before I say one more thing about raising boys, I need to define gentle and explain from Scripture why it’s important.
First, gentleness is strength under control. It is distinctly different than weakness. A baby is weak. But a father who has the strength to crush the baby but instead tempers that strength to cradle it securely is gentle.
Second, why is gentleness important for men?
1) It was important to Jesus.
Matthew 11:29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
2) It is a fruit of the Spirit.
Galatians 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
3) It is part of a walk that fits, or is worthy of, the gospel calling we have through Christ.
Ephesians 4:1-2 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love,
Scripture is crystal clear that gentleness is a characteristic of Jesus and should also be a characteristic of God’s children. I see anecdotal evidence of this in life as clearly as I see it in Scripture. The best men I know are very strong but temper their strength to love those God has given them to serve and protect. And the worst failures of men that I have witnessed were not because the men were physically or mentally weak, but because these strong men did not learn how to temper their strength and instead wounded the very ones they were called to love with their unrestrained power, authority, and mental abilities.
As I look back at my efforts to raise gentle boys, boys who are strong but who also temper that strength in care of others, I am starting now to see real fruit. My boys are still relatively young, and I am curious to see how this will play out as they grow up. Five years ago, I wrote on modeling for our children the way we want them to act – treating them as we want them to treat others. These posts I write are lectures to myself, and that post in particular was one big long lecture to ME. I’ve internalized those thoughts and worked to model for my boys in two particular areas that I am now seeing fruit.
Teaching mutual respect for all image-bearers.
In a post on valuing all of life, I talked of a new effort I was making to look people in the eye that I would normally avoid to instead treat them with basic human dignity. My boys are often in the car with me when these interactions come up, and I think we all benefit from them. We are growing together as a family in valuing all human life. My boys’ particularly struggle with “bad” kids in their classes and their sense of justice around punishment. We talk about what might be happening in that kid’s home. Who in their home or neighborhood treats them badly that they come into school in such a negative place that they treat others that way? My boys understand Zig Ziglar’s Kick the Cat syndrome. We also talk about what we can do to stop the cycle, to not contribute to one more person treating them as less than human.
Teaching particular respect for authority.
Along with teaching general respect for all human life, I have worked to teach my boys particular respect for authority. Their parents’ authority. Their pastor’s authority. Civic authority. But to teach it, I must also model it. I have been particularly convicted of my view of parental authority as an adult. Certainly, parental authority changes when a child grows up and leaves their parents’ home. But for years I didn’t value and solicit my parents’ advice the way I do now. I hope I model for my boys a parental respect into adulthood that will be helpful to them as they become adults.
Finally, I wanted to give some resources that I have found very helpful for me and my boys as we grow in relationship, and I seek to raise strong young men whose strength is submitted to God.
-Jess Thompson’s Exploring Grace Together: 40 Devotionals for the Family. My boys LOVE this book and ask me to read it to them nightly.
–The Action Bible. The graphic images in this picture Bible are appropriate and helpful to understanding each story. Before my boys were comfortable readers, they could follow much just by looking at the pictures. Once they were able to read, they have come to understand much of the Story of Scripture by reading this during sermons that went over their head. I love that they can stay engaged in the purposes of Sunday services even when the pastor loses their attention when they have their Action Bible with them in service.
-Momastery’s Key Jar. My boys ask me daily to do this with them. The questions in the key jar (we have a key plastic bag because I didn’t have any jars at the time) provoke thoughtful interaction around the table or in the car. We often do them at bed time since our time around the table has been messed up lately.
I hope something there is helpful or encouraging to you. I’m only about half way through the at home years of raising my boys. It’s been years since my last post on raising kids, and I wonder what the next few years hold. Though I don’t know exactly, I do have more hope now. I’m not paralyzed by fear of failing my children because of my own ignorance (though heaven knows I’ve done some stupid things). And I’m not paralyzed by fear that they will reject me or God (though they may for a season) . I have a hope that won’t disappoint, and that has equipped me to parent with confidence, not fear. Perhaps that is the biggest gain in parenting of all – the one I have had inside myself believing in God’s promises for my children.
I like the Action Bible. I've been thinking my 5 year old son is ready for something more than a Bible Story book. Do you think it would work for his age?
Dawn, I do think so. He'll enjoy the pictures as he gets stronger as a reader. My boys have had theirs since about that age and still enjoy it.
Thanks for sharing your parenting thoughts- you are a little bit ahead of me (my boys are 5 and 7) and I have benefitted from you sharing your experience and perspective. Thanks for sharing those resources too- I have printed out the key jar questions and am looking forward to using them with my boys.
Great post, I agree that men can be both strong and gentle and gentleness doesn't equate weakness. Great post.
I am saving this for later! I'm having my first boy in September and I love everything about this post!
Thank you again for those insights and accents on how important modeling is and yet how much confidence you now have in God's ability and grace in you to accomplish this very Scriptual attribute. I will be looking into these resources!