Being Gentle in a Fierce World

Samantha Abraham   |   February 4, 2016 

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“Let your gentleness be evident to all.”

This was the verse in Philippians that the Lord chose to highlight to me on my flight to Delhi. I was moving to a city that was described as cold, harsh, and dangerous – even referred to as the rape capital of India – but God had one charge for me. Let your gentleness be evident to all.

We live in a world where we are taught to expect the worst, which is often affirmed by our experiences. It makes sense then, that we sometimes leave the safety of our homes ready for battle. For me, it’s usually the little things that tend to wear me down. Apparently, I cannot get a fair rate for an auto ride to work without having a showdown with the driver first. And sometimes I’m grateful I don’t speak Hindi yet, I’m probably better off not knowing what is yelled at me when I gather the will to go for a morning run.

What bothers me most, though, is that I’ve started to walk with my eyes lowered, head down – it’s better than meeting the gaze of every man I pass, the temptation to confront rising gradually to a boiling point.

I heard a great deal about Delhi before moving from the South, and every conversation seemed to end with one well-intentioned warning – “You cannot be yourself, Samantha”. I was told explicitly by multiple people that I had to learn to be harsh, to be aggressive, or I would never survive in Delhi.

And while I found some of it to be slightly exaggerated, I couldn’t help but notice that the fast-paced culture of the city leaves little to no room for a kind word, except when it is useful for personal gain. Kindness seemed to be seen either as a ruse or as weakness.

So it definitely felt counterintuitive that God kept drawing me back to Paul’s charge to the Philippians, to be indisputably gentle. I had been told that if I remained gentle, I would be taken advantage of by everyone, and it seemed to be true. But I couldn’t escape the feeling that this was important to God. I knew He intended for me to be wise and discerning of danger, and to take precautions to limit my vulnerability. But I felt strongly that He also intended for me to be gentle and kind, and I couldn’t make sense of how to balance these.

If I were to be kind to the strangers I came across in this harsh city, would I not be essentially creating a target of myself?

As I struggled with this, I began to pay closer attention to the context of what Paul is saying. The command to be gentle, like so much else in the Bible, isn’t made in a vacuum. “Let your gentleness be evident to all,” he says, because “the Lord is near” (Phil 4:5). I realised Paul is reminding us that there is not a moment in which we are alone, and we need to trust the nearness of God even in the trivial routine of daily life.

No wearying situation or unnerving encounter occurs outside the presence of our loving Father. This is the context in which God charges us with kindness.

Paul follows by quoting Jesus’ words from the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6:25), to remind us that we have nothing to be anxious about, not even our lives. While we must be wise and take precaution to protect ourselves, we do not need to fear the consequences of being kind. There is discernment in knowing where kindness can be misconceived, and there is merit to being firm when needed. But the more time I spend in Delhi, the more I see that kindness and gentleness are not traits that God is willing to let me compromise out of concern for my own safety.

And so I have prayerfully attempted to demonstrate intentional kindness when it is least expected. I will admit, there are plenty of instances in which I have failed at this, when my frustration has gotten the better of me and I have been inexcusably unkind to people. But these instances are beginning to fade in light of what I’ve learned about God when I have managed to remain kind.

I have learned that the Father’s heart delights in the kindness of His people. He revels in the moment when someone is surprised by gentleness. I find there is such joy in seeing how a kind word can soften the look in someone’s eyes, and I know without a doubt that in that moment, I have had the privilege of seeing God’s heart for this person.

Of course, I cannot be certain that they will not try to take advantage of me. But the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ and His heart for the people I encounter far outweighs what I might lose in this world.

People have told me I am naïve for thinking this way, but all I can say is that I am not kind to people because I trust them. I am kind to people because I trust God. Because it is His joy and my privilege to share His heart through acts of kindness. There can be no greater gift!

 

 

Photo Credit: Unsplash

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Samantha Abraham

Samantha Abraham is learning how to survive as a Tamil girl in Delhi. She loves coffee and kicking back with her record collection, spinning from Adele to Michael Jackson to The Righteous Brothers. But by day, she works as a Development Analyst at an international non-profit.

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7 comments on “Being Gentle in a Fierce World”

  1. Thanks so much for your post Samantha. When I moved to Delhi I felt I had to lower my head, be aggressive and not make eye contact. It was all counterintuitive and added to the difficulty of living in a country that was not my own. I agree we are called to kindness and love, even when it's hard and could be misconstrued.

  2. Oh man this post just nails it!! Exactly what my feelings were when I moved to Delhi. But this is a reminder, not just when in Delhi, but in any city, in any country - to be gentle, as God would command it! Very encouraging.

  3. Samantha, you have managed to express so beautifully what God expects from us, even in the most difficult of circumstances.... And all because we know HE is with us. I'm sure your writing will encourage many who have moved to Delhi and similar cities!

  4. I have a surge of feeling as I finished reading this article. This is such an insightful article Samantha; and so much true for me too in many contexts.

    Thank you & God bless you. 🙂

  5. Beautiful, true, heartfelt and God inspiring words Samantha! Love reading how you so well articulate what's in your heart and what the Lord is showing you. You have a gift, keep sharing it with the world as Jesus is shining through you. Miss you and love you! Xx Lisa

  6. Samantha, thank you for this post. I came across it on Meagan's fb page and am so glad I did. As a former residents of Delhi this resonates so deeply with me, and it is very helpful. You are also a gifted writer - keep writing!

  7. Precious thoughts! No circumstance is so evil that we cannot respond with His good! My Hindi teacher told me that she addresses anyone, from chai and auto wallas to neighbours and friends with the polite "ap" instead of "tum" - a small example of everyday kindness.

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