What’s in a Word: Gentleness

What’s in a Word: Gentleness

Gentle words can turn away anger. They can make a person feel welcome, bring healing to the hurting and hope to the shamed.

Yet, in our culture, gentleness is often associated with weakness. In fact, one of the definitions in the Oxford dictionary for gentle is ‘not strong’.

In 1 Peter 3:4, Paul says that a beautiful woman is one that has a gentle and quiet spirit. Even more, Paul asserts that such a woman has great worth in God’s sight.

However, the idea that a woman should have a gentle and quiet spirit is not a popular one in our culture. No doubt because gentleness has become synonymous with weakness.

The word Paul originally used, which is usually translated gentle, is the Greek word ‘praus’. Praus comes up 4 times in the New Testament: once in the beatitudes (Matthew 5:5), another time when Jesus describes his own heart (Matthew 11:29) and again, when a prophet from the Old Testament is quoted, describing how King Jesus will come to his people (Matthew 21:5).

According to scholars, a better translation of the word ‘praus’ would be ‘strength restrained for the benefit of others’. In other ancient Greek texts, the word was often used to describe a wild horse that had been trained to be a mighty war horse. A ‘praus’ horse was one that had learnt to control its unruly impulses and that used its great strength for the good of its master. Far from weak, a trained horse would fearlessly gallop into battle, bearing the burden of a soldier, and yet be responsive to the slightest touch or whisper from its rider.

In a similar way, the Bible reveals Jesus as gentle. Jesus selflessly restrained his great strength for our good. He was able to control the wind and waves (Mark 4:39). Demons fled at his command (Mark 1:25-27) and even the dead came to life when he spoke (John 11:43-44). Yet he restrained all his strength and power, as he hung quietly on a cross, his only words seeking forgiveness for the murderous crowd around him. He restrained his power in the most difficult of circumstances to grant us the greatest good – freedom from sin and eternal life.

So when Paul is encouraging women to be gentle, he is not saying be weak. He is calling us to thoughtfully channel our strength, hold back any selfish anger, and with all our might, seek the good of those around us. That is the quiet gentle spirit that is of great worth to God.

Pacific Islands Theme Day

The difference between the gentle hula dance of pacific island women and the intimidating haka dance of the men is quite striking!  We had a lot of fun learning about these dances and giving them a go on our Polynesian themed day.

We started out colouring and designing tikis, with a printout from our Layers of Learning curriculum.

After that we had a go at making tikis from varied materials. We used air drying clay, salt dough and play dough.

One of my ancestors was a missionary to Tahiti many years ago and brought back a wooden tiki, which stayed in the family for some time, before it was sold to a museum collection. So, we looked up the statue online, and read some extracts from letters that my great, great, great grandfather had sent back to the UK, while living in the South Sea Islands.

Next we learnt about how volcanic islands are formed, using this helpful book from ‘The Magic School Bus’ series, as well as watching the animated ‘Lava’ song on YouTube.

Then we got out the face paint and costumes. The men of the pacific Islands often have a full or half face of tattoos, whereas the women usually just have their chins tattooed.

While I painted faces, the boys took turns reading this book of myths and legends.

Next it was time to make lunch. We based our Fijian salad on this recipe. It was unlike any salad we have had before and was absolutely delicious! We used smoked salmon, rather than curing our own fish.

After lunch we watched some videos of hula and haka dances. The girls did some YouTube tutorials before choreographing their own dance, but after watching a few haka dances the boys decided to go out in the garden and freestyle!

Once they had performed their dance for us they decided to have a quick rugby match, given it is such a popular sport on many of the Islands.

With the children sufficiently worn out, I felt justified putting on a movie for them. Of course it had to be Moana. It was fun when they spotted the various myths we had already read about, referred to in the songs and drawn in Maui’s tattoos.

Meanwhile I got on with making dinner. I made Pineapple glazed pork using this recipe along with coconut rice, coconut mashed sweet potato, a tomato and avocado salad and mango smoothies.

The best news was, there was enough food for two days!

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4 Replies to “What’s in a Word: Gentleness”

  1. Your children are so fortunate to have you as their mother. This is so creative and looks to have been great fun. And I loved your thoughts on the meaning of ‘gentle’.

    1. Totally endorse Graham’s comments! It’s magical stuff, Rebecca!! All of it 🙂

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