Goodness, Gentleness, & Kindness
It is hard to disagree with the fact that as people we should all be moral in some capacity. Many times morality is rooted in our ability to be good and to be kind. But morality is something that can be accomplished beyond faith or religion. This means that in training up our children to be Christ-like, we must truly understand the fruits of the spirit. There is no question in Christianity if Christ was “right or wrong” or if He lived morally or immorally. Therefore, if we were to describe Christ as good, gentle, and kind, we describing the fruits of His spirit. This means that goodness is more than the act of being good, gentleness is more than a demeanor, and kindness more than a mere quality. As spirited parents raising spirited children, we must instill more than just morality in them. But how?
In teaching our children to be good and kind, it is important to understand what that embodies. One of the accepted definitions of goodness is “the beneficial or nutritious part” of something. Therefore, being good is ultimately what benefits and feeds others. We are not good or kind for ourselves, but we are for the benefit and encouragement of those around us. When we teach our children to be good and kind, it is not about their temporal behavior, but their outward recognition of how to live in a way that is truly positively impacting others. I personally believe that it is important to reserve the word “good” for its true place in our lives. So when a child is throwing a tantrum, it is important to highlight the importance of self-control over the idea of being good. For it is when we show mercy like our father has shown us mercy (Matthew 18) that we are being good. Or when we forego stereotypes, tradition, and pre-conceived notions in order to help someone in need (Luke 10), that we are being good. Goodness and Kindness are how we invest in humanity — How we feed, encourage, and benefit those around us to be the best that they can be.
Gentleness is also sometimes translated as meekness. In being gentle or meek, a person is showing humility, patience, and consideration. I have many times said that no person is won to Christianity through an argument. So debating whether one is right or wrong is not showing gentleness. I think teaching gentleness and inspiring our children to be the meek who inherit the earth, it is important to teach them to be patient and diligent in staying true to the course. Being considerate of where a person is in their life is important, but it’s also important to address sin. When Jesus approaches the woman at the well, He does so in a spirit of Gentleness. He rebukes her for her sin, but in truth rather than anger (John 4). He did not attack her for her sin, but showed her the error in her ways and the life she could be living. As parents I think this is a great example in how to raise our children. As our children misbehave, we can choose to “snap” at them or we can choose and gentle response. A response that is stern, yet patient. We love our children so we discipline them, but through a spirit of gentleness and not anger.
In all three of these fruits of the Spirit, I believe that it’s important to understand that it’s still “OK” to be upset, disappointed, or angry. It’s “OK” to experience emotions! Even Jesus expressed anger (Matthew 21) and there is always a place for emotions. Personally, I think that it is very important to teach children to deal with negative emotions in order to react positively. So in disciplining and teaching my daughter to be kind or gentle, she many times reacts with tears. Each time I tell her that it’s ok to be be upset, but important to learn from each experience.
The days when my daughter repeatedly does what I tell her not to do are the days that it’s hardest to show gentleness. The days when I can’t accomplish a single one of my goals are the days it’s hard to show kindness. The days when nothing is going my way and Murphy’s Law has set in are the days that it’s hardest to be kind. However, aren’t those the days when we need someone else to show us the fruits of the Spirit the most? I encourage you to show your best when you’re feeling your worst. It’s the best example we can give our children.
Beyond our own personal interactions as child and parent, it is important to demonstrate to children what goodness, gentleness, and kindness look like. Giving fruit to a beggar on the corner instead of acting like you didn’t see him shows your child goodness and kindness for others. It shows a gentleness and compassion for people and to help them where they are in their lives. It’s having faith in humanity and knowing that what you do is benefiting others. Because in the end, someone else’s motive does not matter if you had the opportunity to help. When the chance o serve comes along, it’s about taking it regardless of the circumstance.
I know I struggle with being selfish and not maximizing my potential in bettering another’s life and I want to teach my daughter and myself that it’s not about self. Where do you struggle the most? Do you see your struggles in your children?
Kara is an author and advocate for positive, grace-filled parenting. She is homeschooler to her 4 children living in Boston, MA and believes in creative educational approaches to help kids dive deeper into a rich learning experience. She has her degree in Secondary Education & Adolescent Childhood Development and is passionate about connecting with and helping other parents on their journey to raise awesome kids!