Today, we will continue our series on the importance of the Fruit of the Spirit in the life of a Christian educator—gentleness (Galatians 5:22,23).
This fruit is thought of as kindness, being friendly, generous, or warm-hearted. Educators who are walking in gentleness show sympathy or understanding; they are not harsh or austere. Kindness on the part of teachers and administrators is far more effective as a means of motivating students toward repentance and self-discipline than hitting them over the head with their sinfulness and dangling them from the pit to reinforce the issue. This does not mean that sin should not be exposed, and students warned to flee its consequences. However, it is your kindness that will break through stubborn hearts and not how skilled you are in quoting scripture verses. Even when you need to reprove, rebuke, or exhort students, it needs to be done with kindness. Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and teaching (2 Timothy 4:2).
The apostle Paul put it in perspective, “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32). Kindness can be demonstrated by showing sympathy and sensitivity. You must be willing to tune in to the feelings of your students. The child who shares with you, “My pet goldfish died,” doesn't need to hear you say, “No big deal. I'm sure your parents can buy you another one.” This is not sympathy; it shows no sense of grief or feelings of loss. Gentleness as a fruit of the Spirit produces a sensitivity to student needs and leads one to lift up and encourage students rather than condemning them.
An educator who gives extra time to a student who turns in an assignment late because the student went to the hospital to visit a friend who was in an accident is displaying grace and mercy; both are important ingredients in kindness. It may take a little extra effort to track the late assignment. However, the extra kindness displayed during a point of genuine need, not only strengthens your relationship with the student, but it causes the student to respond more favorably when other demands are being placed upon him.
Kindness is modeled through generosity. Sometimes educators are reluctant to bend or adjust because they have been told, “If you give them an inch, they will take a mile.” There may be those who may take advantage of your generosity, but you must be willing to take a chance. The warmth of experiencing a moment of generosity far outweighs the unpleasantness shown by a few.