A Fruit A Day…Is Being Meek a Weakness?

Nothing is so strong as gentleness, nothing so gentle as real strength“-Saint Francis de Sales

Welcome back! Over the past few weeks, we have studied in detail the virtues of love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness and faithfulness.Today, we are going to tackle the virtue of gentleness.

Merriam Webster Definition and Synonyms of Gentle

  • Definition: mildness of manners or disposition
  • Synonyms: nonabrasive, soothing, tender
  • Related words: calm, peaceful, placid, quiet, serene, tranquil, compassionate, lenient, merciful

Greek word for Gentleness

The ancient Greek word for gentleness is prautés. It is related to the concepts of meekness and humility.

Favorite Verses on Gentleness

  • “To speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people”. Titus 3:2
  • “With all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love” Ephesians 4:2

Final thoughts on Gentleness

I used to be skeptical about the concept of meekness because I felt it implied becoming a doormat, being passive or weak. But this is not the case. Being gentle or meek is not a weakness but in fact a sign of implicit strength. Jesus in his gentleness and compassion towards others still conveyed a strong sense of power, authority and passion. It is true that gentleness is somewhat dependent on personality but I wonder if it’s something we can learn to do in the spirit of being respectful towards others.

I think gentleness can be applied in many situations such as comforting someone in their sorrow, correcting someone in a firm yet non-judgmental manner or forgiving someone for a past hurt. Being gentle does not equate to being weak nor does it necessarily mean we are always quiet in our mannerisms. To me, it is an act of humility where we are willing to listen to the opinions of others and to be tolerant of others, yet at the same time being brave enough to speak out in a respectful manner when needed.

Image courtesy of wallpaperskyline.com
Image courtesy of wallpaperskyline.com

A Fruit a Day…Being Faithful

Over the past few weeks, we have walked through a selection of virtues from one of my favorites verses. Today, we are going to tackle the virtue of faithfulness.

Image courtesy of adamr@freedigitalphoto.net
Image courtesy of adamr@freedigitalphoto.net

Merriam Webster Definitions and Synonyms of Faithful

  • having or showing true and constant support or loyalty
  • firm in adherence to promises or in observance of duty
  • steadfast in affection or allegiance
  • constant, dedicated, devoted, devout, loyal, steadfast

Greek and Hebrew words for Faithfulness

The ancient Greek word for faithfulness is pistis In the context in which it was used by Paul in Galatians 5:22, the meaning of faithfulness connoted reliability, dependability and trustworthiness. Pistis can also refer to faith (as in a doctrine or religious belief) and God’s faithfulness towards us. The Hebrew word for faithfulness is bittachon which connotes a sense of trust, safety and security.

Favorite Verses on Faithfulness

  • Your mercy and loving-kindness, O Lord, extend to the skies, and Your faithfulness to the clouds”. Psalm 36: 5
  • Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart“. Proverbs 3:3

Final thoughts on Faithfulness

I really enjoyed researching the concept of faithfulness because it encompasses such a vast entity of human relationships as well as our relationship with God. What I learned from studying this topic is that God’s faithfulness towards us (as demonstrated by his compassion, mercy, forgiveness, blessings, love and grace) is something to be emulated by us in our interactions with other people. There are so many ways to demonstrate faithfulness through our loyalty, integrity, trustworthiness, reliability and dependability.

I also think of faithfulness as an enduring quality that gives a sense of commitment over the long-term despite the circumstances. When I think of a faithful friend or family member, I think of someone who has been there for me through my ups and downs and who has not given up on me even in my weak moments. I thank God for these people and for His enduring faithfulness to me even when I did not deserve it!

A Fruit a Day…Demonstrating Goodness

Welcome back to our study on the fruits of the Spirit! So far we have covered love, joy, peace, forbearance and kindness. Today, we are going to take a look at the virtue of goodness.

Merriam Webster Definitions and Synonyms of Goodness

  • excellence of morals and behavior
  • character, decency, morality, honesty, integrity, probity, uprightness, virtue, virtuousness

Definition of Goodness from Strong’s Concordance

  • intrinsic goodness, especially as a personal quality, with stress on the kindly (rather than the righteous) side of goodness

Greek word for Goodness and the various shades of meaning

The ancient Greek word for goodness is agathosune It has a similar meaning to the Greek word for kindness (chréstotés) however ‘goodness’ has a more active and driven connotation. Goodness has an assertive sense to it because an individual behaves based on their own personal moral values. They are therefore likely to feel more strongly about a situation that goes against their principles (for example, seeing others experience injustice or suffering) and do something about it.

Interestingly, the Bible also describes goodness as the capacity to correct each other (another inkling into the more assertive aspect of goodness). This makes sense because if I am really looking out for someone, I would want to respectfully warn them if they are heading down a destructive path. The challenge becomes how to help without sounding accusing or self-righteous.

Interesting facts about the Greek words for goodness:

Agatha is a feminine name derived from the Ancient Greek word agathos, meaning ‘good’. It was the name of St. Agatha of Sicily, a third-century Christian martyr.

Favorite Verses on Goodness

  • As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all [men]…” Galatians 6:10
  • I myself am convinced, my brothers, that you yourselves are filled with goodness and full of all the knowledge you need to be able to instruct each other.” Romans 15:14
  • A good man out of the good treasure of the heart brings forth good things…” Matthew 12:35

Final thoughts on Goodness

My initial thought when I consider the word ‘goodness’ is a word describing a moral virtue. Goodness does not mean self-righteousness. It means making a choice that will ultimately benefit someone else. It is being virtuous without ulterior motives. Self-righteousness is by nature self-focused and prideful however goodness looks outwardly and says “how will my decision affect someone else?” Exercising goodness towards someone else can encompass many areas of life. It could be meeting a need (kindness), being true to our word (honesty), standing up for the oppressed or speaking out against discrimination (integrity). Goodness is being selfless and focusing on another person’s situation.

I am guilty of being self-centered and self-righteous at times. But I quickly remember how status didn’t matter to Jesus in the Bible. He often spent time with those who were considered the lowest in society. Conversely, the self-righteous Pharisees, even with all their knowledge and pomp, did not impress Jesus. I am constantly reminding myself that God looks at the heart, not at the exterior. Goodness culminates in a deep desire to look out for those around us without focusing on how this reflects on us. How much I still have yet to learn!
Image courtesy of bheretoday.com
Image courtesy of bheretoday.com

A Fruit a Day…Demonstrating Kindness

No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted” Quote by Aesop.

Today’s study on the fruits of the Spirit looks at the virtue of kindness.

Merriam Webster Definitions and Synonyms of Kindness

  • an act of kind assistance 
  • the capacity for feeling for another’s unhappiness or misfortune
  • sympathetic concern for the well-being of others
  • courtesy, grace, mercy, bigheartedness, compassion, humanity, sympathy, charity

Definitions and Synonyms of Kindness from Lexicon and Concordance by E.W Bullinger

  • active beneficence in spite of ingratitude
  • benevolence, benignity, philanthropy

Greek word for Kindness

The ancient Greek word for kindness is chréstotés. It has the connotation of “meeting needs”. I find this really interesting because it means that kindness is not just being polite to someone but it is also meeting their need. When I tapped my husband’s brain for his interpretation of chréstotés, here was his thoughtful response, “It has the basic sense of excellent, useful, serviceable and adapted to a purpose; in other words, the shades of meaning for the Greek word ‘chréstotés’ involve practical and useful service, not just kindly feelings as we might think from the English word ‘kindness'”.

Favorite Verse on Kindness

  • Do not let kindness and truth leave you; Bind them around your neck, Write them on the tablet of your heart”. Proverbs 3:3

Final thoughts on Kindness

I usually think of kindness as generically being nice to someone else. But it goes much deeper than this. There is an element of empathy where we feel what the other person is going through. When we extend an act of kindness, we are connecting on a level that draws us into the world of the other person and this expresses the notion  “I understand”. It is not always possible to completely relate to what other people are going through but empathy and generosity are certainly facets of kindness.

The person who is receiving the act of kindness may not always be deserving or grateful. This can turn us off from wanting to help further. But kindness overlooks weaknesses in others and is gracious towards someone despite their flaws. More and more, I see God’s grace towards my own failings and I wonder where I would be if he did not extend his kindness and mercy towards me daily.

kindness
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A Fruit a Day…What Does it Mean to be Long-Suffering?

Welcome back to our study on the fruits of the Spirit. We are almost half-way through the study, having already tackled love, joy and peace. Today we get to look at one that I find particularly difficult to achieve in my own life: FORBEARANCE.

My thoughts on Forbearance

When I think of forbearance, the first thing that comes to mind is putting up with someone or something difficult. Forbearance is not a word I use or come across often so I had take more time than usual to research this.

Merriam-Webster Definition of Forbearance

The definition of forbearance is ‘the quality of someone who is patient and able to deal with a difficult person or situation without becoming angry‘.

Synonyms for Forbearance

Long-suffering, endurance, fortitude, living with restraint, temperance, tolerance, leniency, mercy

Greek word for Forbearance

I had an interesting discussion with my husband about this. One of the ancient Greek words used for forbearance is makrothumia which means “long-tempered” (as opposed to short-tempered). What struck me about this word is that it does not mean we are to never get angry but rather that there can be a “slowness” to becoming angry. There is an element of forethought and consideration before we react to something.  So how does this relate to the concept of forbearance or long-suffering? If we are being patient with someone who really does not deserve it, then we are challenged with the task of exercising restraint and not getting angry with them easily. So much easier said than done but it is one of the fruits of the Spirit so something I intend to work on!

The Septuagint, which is the Greek translation of the Old Testament describes forbearance as “God delaying his wrath”. So once again, there is an element of “delay” and not acting out on our first reaction or impulse.

Favorite verses on Forbearance

  • Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love” Eph. 4:2
  • Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone”. Col. 3:13
  • Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:2-4

Final thoughts on Forbearance

The concept of forbearance or long-suffering is a sensitive area. It can be hard to find a balance between being patient with those who do not deserve it versus becoming a door-mat for someone. It can also be a challenge to try and put up with a difficult or inconvenient situation without getting upset or annoyed. How do we find balance? How do we know when enough is enough? I don’t think there is an easy answer to it. All I know is that I can certainly do with some improvement in this area. I get impatient with my children sometimes when I could be more tolerant of their tiredness or moodiness. It’s easy to get upset about traffic, about someone being insensitive, or about plans not unraveling as intended.  Makrothumia means not reacting angrily to the person or situation but patiently bearing it for the moment. It’s not easy, is it?

Forbearance or self-control is the ability to exercise restraint, to stay in balance. It is disciplining yourself to be measured and temperate in your response to trying circumstances. It is being patent and even keeled while enduring hardships. It is having the ability to constrain your own worst impulses and allowing thoughtful, wiser aspects of yourself to govern what you say and do. Just because we can do something doesn’t mean we should. Forbearance protects us against doing harm on impulse in the throes of anger or fear. Since so much of virtue is about finding a balance point between two kinds of excess, forbearance helps to keep us close to the center of our better selves.” –Wisdomcommons.org

Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net
Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

A Fruit a Day…A Sense of Peace

Welcome back to our study on the fruits of the Spirit. Now that we have tackled the fruits of love and joy, let’s move on to the next one…PEACE!

My thoughts on Peace

When I think of peace, the first thing that comes to mind is a state of serenity. I imagine a still place at the center of a whirlwind where nothing is moving, nothing is being disturbed, it is perfectly at rest despite the turmoil going on around it.

Merriam-Webster Definitions of Peace

My favorite definitions are listed below:

  • a state of tranquility or quiet
  • freedom from disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions
  • harmony in personal relations

Greek word for Peace

My husband is my go-to person when it comes to finding out the etiology of words because he has a great love of ancient languages such as Greek and Hebrew. When I asked him about the word ‘peace’ last night, he enthusiastically leafed through one of his ancient Greek Lexicons. The ancient Greek word for peace is eiréné (phonetic spelling ‘i-ray-nay’). It alludes to a sense of harmony, concord, security and safety. Peace also has roots in the word eirō, which means “to join, tie together into a whole“. I like this definition because it gives me the sense that when we are at peace, we are whole.

Fun facts about Peace

  • The ancient Greek word for peace was originally used to depict a state of calm or cessation of fighting during war-time. It is only more recently that peace has been associated with relationships, thoughts, etc.
  • The Hebrew word for peace “Shalom” was used as a greeting to indicate “peace be with you”. It also connoted a sense of harmony, completeness, prosperity, and welfare.

Favorite verse on Peace

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Phil 4:6-7.

Final thoughts on Peace

I don’t always find it easy to be at peace with current circumstances. Sometimes it seems there’s no way out and circumstances are hopeless. But I’m hoping to develop an attitude of peace even in those moments. I like the definition of peace regarding freedom from oppressive thoughts. It gives me the idea that even though there is turmoil around us, it is still possible to find a place of peace.

As I write this, I just read a comment from a fellow blogger who is going through a really hard time in her family. My heart feels heavy for her and I would just like to take this moment to share some peace with her. You know who you are. You are a strong woman with a beautiful family and you will make it through this difficult time. Peace be with you.

“Shalom…does not mean merely the absence of strife. It is pregnant with positive, active and energetic meaning and association. It connotes totality, health, wholesomeness, harmony, success, the completeness and richness of living in an integrated social milieu. When people meet or part they wish each other shalom, or they inquire about eachother’s shalom”.-William Chomsky from “Hebrew, the eternal language”

Image courtesy of dan at freedigitalphotos.net
Image courtesy of dan at freedigitalphotos.net

A Fruit a Day…An Attitude of Joy

Welcome back to our study on the fruits of the Spirit! We started off looking at love and how this can be applied in daily life. Now we are on to the next fruit: JOY!

Here is my favorite definition from the Merriam-Webster dictionary:

  • a source or cause of delight: What gives you delight? For me, it’s the people in my life, God, hobbies, science, music, reading, learning, and many more! Remembering those things that give us delight can be a good way to mitigate the difficult moments. Am I feeling discouraged? Call a good friend and spend some time together. Am I feeling depressed? Get out of the house and do something active that I enjoy.

Now I have to admit that initially when I sifted through my Bible, not all the verses I found on joy had me doing cartwheels. Many verses had references to “trials” and “perseverance”. But what about being happy?  Inspired by my husband who has studied ancient Greek, I decided to look up the original Greek word for joy which is “chara“. Rather than an expression of mere happiness, it alludes more to a sense of appreciative gladness.

So, it seems that joy is more of an attitude than just a state of being. Being joyful or rejoicing is choosing to give thanks and be grateful even in the face of difficult circumstances. It doesn’t mean we pretend that nothing is wrong or that we do not need support. It means we are choosing to believe that something good will come out of it and that even now in those challenging moments, there is still something to be grateful for. Very much easier said than done of course but I’m hoping to come back and read this whenever I’m having trouble being joyful!

Here are some of my favorite verses on the topic of joy:

  • sorrowful yet always rejoicing…having nothing and yet possessing everything” 2 Corinthians 6:10. This was in the context of the hardships Paul was going through as he was being persecuted for his faith. I think this translates well to other situations in life. We may be going through tough times, we may not have much, but yet we are rejoicing. This does not mean that I always have a smile plastered on my face, but internally, I know God is in control of every situation even when it doesn’t feel like it.
  • Consider it pure joy…whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work in you so that you may be mature and complete…” James 1:2-4. In the past, this was one of those verses that I tended to scout over and try to ignore because I didn’t like the idea of being “tested”. But I have had great role models in my life who have been amazingly strong through the most adverse situations and they have quoted this verse to me often. It reminds me of the verse on being refined by fire and surely life does refine us.
  • I have set the Lord continually before me; Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my glory rejoices; My flesh also will dwell securely” Psalm 16:9. I love the simplicity of this verse. It exudes an assurance of security in Christ and this in itself is a reason to be joyful!

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control”. Galations 5:22-23.

One of those 'joyful' moments. My husband and I petting a cheetah in Kenya.
One of those ‘joyful’ moments. My husband and I petting a cheetah in Kenya. The cheetah happily purred as loudly as a cat!