Sometimes we forget that Jesus is both strong and gentle.
The One who shouted down the wind and waves—“Be quiet!”—also let little children clamber onto his lap for a blessing. The One who started crying at the sight of his beloved Jerusalem also strode into the Court of Gentiles and started slinging a whip, toppling tables, spilling coins, driving out the merchants who didn’t belong there.
It’s a good reminder that a Christian man can be both strong and gentle, recognizing that strength is not brutality, and gentleness is not weakness.
I still like the old term “gentleman.” I want to raise up sons who are gentlemen, whose gentleness is actually strength wrapped in wisdom. My picture of a gentleman is based on my gentleman father.
A gentleman knows he’s physically stronger than most women, so he opens doors for them, carries the heavy boxes, and walks on the curb side of the sidewalk for their protection. Dads, let’s model these courtesies. Moms, let’s sometimes say, “I need somebody’s muscles for this bag”—even if it’s not that heavy.
A gentleman knows when he has to get physical—as Jesus did. Sometimes brutes only respond to brute strength, and a man has to defend himself, his friends, family, or country. Moms, if God made our little boys the wrestle-on-the-floor type, we can let them exercise that instinct. And if God made them more inclined to defend others with words than wallops, we can let them exercise that instinct.
A gentleman cries. Let’s never say, “Big boys don’t cry” if crying is exactly what a situation calls for. If we have an overly sensitive child on our hands, though, one who cries at the drop of a hat, well, that’s a whole different article.
A gentleman respects others. This plays out in a number of ways.
- A gentleman gives others room to speak. He doesn’t need to dominate, filling rooms with his mansplaining and withholding praise for others. Instead, he’s a leader who listens. Dads, you can help by leading that way yourself and by refereeing the kids’ verbal tussles: “Hey, don’t interrupt each other . . .” “Try saying, ‘Yes’ first. Find points of agreement before you disagree.”
- A gentleman cleans up. Moms, we need to rein in our instinct to pick up every vagabond sock and clean up every mess because it’s faster. Let the lads take responsibility for themselves.
- A gentleman has good manners. He looks people in the eye, shakes hands firmly, and says, “Please.” He doesn’t start eating until everyone has their food, and he knows how to chew with his mouth closed. This isn’t pretension. It’s respect for others.
Finally, a gentleman keeps his word. He’s trustworthy. He has integrity. The whole world can depend on the word of a gentleman.
Your picture of a gentleman might be different than mine. That’s okay. Hopefully we all agree, though, that our boys can be both gentle and strong, just like Jesus—the One who said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” and also “Learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart.”
Laurie Gauger-Hested and her husband, Michael, have a blended family that includes her two 20-somethings and his teenage son.