In Honest to God, Bill Hybels writes:

Recently my brother and I spent a lunch hour discussing the mark our dad left on our lives.

Dan and I reminisced about the times we had sailed with him on Lake Michigan. We remembered violent storms with fifty-mile-an-hour winds. All the other sailors would dash for the harbor, but Dad would smile from ear to ear and say, "Let's head out farther!"

We talked about the tough business decisions we had seen him make. We winced when we remembered his firm hand of discipline that blocked our rebellious streaks. We never doubted it. Dad was strong, tough, and thoroughly masculine.

Yet for twenty-five years he spent nearly every Sunday afternoon standing in front of a hundred mentally retarded women at the state mental hospital. Gently and patiently he led them in a song service. Few of them could even sing, but he didn't care. He knew it made them feel loved. Afterward he stood by the door while each of those disheveled, broken women planted kisses on his cheek. As little guys, Dan and I had the unspeakable privilege of watching our six-foot-three, two-hundred-twenty-pound, thoroughly masculine dad treat these forgotten women with a gentleness that marked us.

Taken from the book Honest to God by Bill and Lynne Hybels. Copyright © 1990 by Bill Hybels. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

Five Ways to Be Gentle

Jerry Bridges suggests these five strategies for Biblical injunctions about gentleness:

* Actively seek to make others feel at ease. Be sensitive to other's opinions and ideas, welcoming opinion.

* Show respect for the personal dignity of the other person. When you need to change a wrong opinion, do so with persuasion and kindness rather than domination or intimidation.

* Avoid blunt speech and abrupt manner. Be sensitive to how others react to your words, considering how they may feel. When it is necessary to wound, also include encouragement.

* Don't be threatened by opposition; gently instruct, asking God to dissolve the opposition.

* Do not belittle or degrade or gossip about a brother who has fallen—instead grieve and pray for his repentance.