1 Peter 3:15: “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”

The apostle Peter wrote his letter in a time when Christianity was still in its infancy. Sometimes eyed with suspicion and downright hostility, it was probably not easy to treat everybody with respect. Today the question still remains – how can we be gentle in a violent world?

Growing up, I had issues with a violent stepfather. He scared me. I would get up in the morning and the living room was trashed; or I would wake up at night to find my mother sitting next to me in the bedroom with doors locked while my stepfather hammered against the door demanding to get in. Domestic violence was not even a buzzword back then. Thankfully this marriage ended after five years. While the divorce eliminated the violence from our home, it did leave a lasting impression in my heart. I had become afraid of men and afraid of life, which is why most of my decisions in my young adulthood were fear-driven.

At age 19 I moved from my childhood home into the city where I enrolled in college to study foreign languages, but I did not graduate. Within a year’s time I dropped out of school and moved into an apartment with a group of people who, like me, had decided to join a young mission. For years following I stayed behind the walls of a religious community that dictated every aspect of my life and separated me from family and friends. Eventually, I became fed up with the situation and left.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to deal with violence, but there are certainly wrong approaches; seeking revenge is one, escapism is another. I chose the latter and I can say that we don’t escape from violence by going into hiding. When we hide from a problem, the problem follows us and grows bigger in the process.

Back to the initial question: how to be gentle in a violent world – To me the key is getting to know Jesus. The Son of God is gentle and fearless. He never defended himself from violent people, but He was not afraid of them either. I have grown from fearful to hopeful and know that Jesus is the reason for the hope that I have. Without Him I would still be stuck in a very small world. I do not have all the answers, but what I do have is hope.

Proverbs 15:1: “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”

Gentleness is a rare gem.

To put us at ease, Jesus says of Himself that He is gentle (Matthew 11:28):

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

Prophet Isaiah wrote about Him (Isaiah 42:3):

A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice;

Gentleness is paramount in dealing with the bruised, the broken, young and tender. Rudeness is able to kill those who are in this precarious position. However, we all could use a little gentleness. A kind word goes a long way!

After moving into our house, my husband Bill built a nice little home studio. We’ve started recording at the beginning of the year with the purpose to finish our Christmas album by October. The recording process can be arduous. Technology can be bitchy. Vocal cords don’t respond the same way on any given day. There are hang ups. There are road blocks. Working on this project together as a husband and wife team, it is important to be gentle. Yesterday, due to an oversight, previously recorded tracks disappeared and we had to rerecord. Bummer! It would have been impossible to do without patience. I guess patience and gentleness go hand in hand.

Speaking of gentleness in relationships – I don’t think it’s possible to be gentle with pent-up anger inside. Anger is usually a symptom that something is wrong. If the wrong of a situation remains the unaddressed elephant in the room it soon grows to be a monster. Like it or not, there is no true harmony without voicing our concerns. There is no true intimacy without addressing offense. We don’t need to bury simmering anger for long to see it reaching boiling temperatures. We know how misdirected anger blows up in our face with lots of collateral damage.

Thankfully, there’s constructive anger. When we see dog poop on the floor, we better eliminate it, or it will be carried all throughout the house and cause a lot of stink. I guess we all know what that means. Constructive anger does the house cleaning. We address the wrong and eliminate those emotional triggers that make it unsafe to be around. And removing those triggers ultimately paves the way to gentleness.

Let’s be honest – so we can be gentle.