Mildness, a Christian Requirement
1-3. Why is mildness for the Christian?
WHEN you listen to a weather forecast in the summertime, are you happy to hear that it will be well over 100 degrees Fahrenheit in the shade, with high humidity accompanying the intense heat? Or in wintertime, does it make you glad to have the forecaster say it will be well below freezing, with icy winds of high velocity piling up huge snowdrifts? No, the average person does not relish such forecasts, because to go about one’s daily activity in such extremes of weather is not pleasant.
2 However, what if the forecast stated the weather would be mild, that the temperature would be in the middle seventies and the humidity low, with sunny skies broken only by fleecy clouds? Why, that makes the average person feel good! He wants to get out in that nice weather, breathe in the fresh air and be invigorated. Yes, this kind of weather is very pleasant. Why, even one’s attitude often improves! No doubt about it, mild weather is desirable, but harsh extremes are not.
3 So, too, with the Christian personality. As a quality, mildness is desirable rather than harshness. As a matter of fact, not only is it desirable, but it is a Christian requirement. The apostle Paul stated at Ephesians 4:1, 2: “I . . . entreat you to walk worthily of the calling with which you were called, with complete lowliness of mind and mildness.” He encouraged Timothy to “pursue righteousness, godly devotion, faith, love, endurance, mildness of temper.” (1 Tim. 6:11) When counseling wives, Peter told them to let their adornment “be the secret person of the heart in the incorruptible apparel of the quiet and mild spirit, which is of great value in the eyes of God.” (1 Pet. 3:4) Mildness, then, is really more than desirable. It is required of Christians.
WHAT IT IS
4. What else makes mildness so important?
4 Mildness is so important that the Bible tells us it is one of the products, or fruits, of God’s holy spirit. At Galatians 5:22, 23 Paul says: “The fruitage of the spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, mildness.” So this quality, mildness, is a product of God’s active force working through receptive Christians on earth. Where Christians are in tune with God, where they have molded their lives to the requirements God outlines in his sacred Word, and where they ask for and allow God’s spirit to operate in them, then they will be producing this quality. A lack of mildness indicates something is missing, that Christian maturity has not been acquired, that God’s spirit is not operating freely in that individual.
5. What does it mean to be mild?
5 Just what does it mean to be mild? Mildness means to be calm, moderate in our ways and actions, tempered in our feelings and behavior toward others. It means to be gentle, tender. This gentleness might be compared to that used when handling an infant. A loving mother would not think of putting a baby to bed by roughly throwing the child into its crib, unconcerned as to where it would land or what damage might be done. No, the loving mother is careful, tender. She keeps both hands on the infant and gently carries it from one place to another so as to cause no injury. She maintains a grip just firm enough to get the job done. Mildness is like that, gentle, tender, careful, but firm enough to accomplish the necessary tasks of life.
6, 7. What are some things mildness is not?
6 There are some things that mildness is not. It is not harsh. It does not employ sharp or cutting language when speaking to others. It does not harden itself against one’s fellowman. Husbands might compare it to a shirt collar. If the collar is too stiff it becomes harsh, irritating, cutting to the neck. The husband prefers a collar that does not irritate, one that is mild to the neck, but firm enough so that it will hold its shape. Mildness is similar to that. It is not hard, irritating or cutting.
7 Mildness is not impatient or quick-tempered. It is not difficult to please, finicky and fussy about every little thing. It is not disagreeable or belligerent. As Paul urged Titus to remind the early Christians, it means “to speak injuriously of no one, not to be belligerent, to be reasonable, exhibiting all mildness toward all men.”—Titus 3:2.
8, 9. Is mildness a sign of weakness?
8 Mildness should not be mistaken for weakness of personality or cowardice, however, for it most certainly is not. Just because a person cultivates a mild disposition and avoids extremes of speech and behavior does not mean he lacks courage or is ineffective. Actually, it indicates inner strength and shows that one has his spirit under control. It shows that one is being molded by God’s spirit, and how could that possibly make one weak or ineffective? No, do not confuse mildness with being feeble, irresolute, unstable, vacillating, or weak-kneed. It is not. To the contrary, the Christian who has this fruit of God’s spirit is strong, courageous, determined.
9 The apostle Paul was a mild person, yet he says of himself when writing under the inspiration of holy spirit: “In labors more plentifully, in prisons more plentifully, in stripes to an excess, in near-deaths often. By Jews I five times received forty strokes less one, three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I experienced shipwreck, a night and a day I have spent in the deep; in journeys often, in dangers from rivers, in dangers from highwaymen, in dangers from my own race, in dangers from the nations, in dangers in the city, in dangers in the wilderness, in dangers at sea, in dangers among false brothers, in labor and toil, in sleepless nights often, in hunger and thirst, in abstinence from food many times, in cold and nakedness. Besides those things of an external kind, there is what rushes in on me from day to day, the anxiety for all the congregations. In Damascus the governor under Aretas the king was guarding the city of the Damascenes to seize me, but through a window in the wall I was lowered in a wicker basket and escaped his hands.” (2 Cor. 11:23-28, 32, 33) Does all of that sound like the activity of one who lacked courage? Surely, while Paul had his human frailties and weaknesses, God’s spirit operating in him made him bold, fearless, courageous in the face of hardship and opposition. Yet, at the same time, he was like a loving father, for God’s spirit also produced in him a mild disposition. So, too, Christians today, while mild in disposition, also have the courage and boldness God’s spirit produces in receptive humans.
10, 11. What are some benefits mildness brings?
10 Mildness brings many benefits to those who practice it. For one thing, it brings great calmness to mind and body. The mild person is not always getting upset and agitated by the actions of others. He does not torture his mind and body with continual anxiety and strife. It is not the mild person that is likely to get ulcers or mental disorders. To the contrary, mildness helps to keep the emotions on an even keel, which, in turn, brings benefits mentally and physically.
11 Another benefit that comes to the mild person is that he is easier to get along with. Others enjoy associating with him. They are refreshed when in the company of the mild person because of his pleasant manner, speech and actions, just as they are refreshed on a mild and pleasant day. This pleasant effect that mild ones produce is well described at Proverbs 16:24, where it says: “Pleasant sayings are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and a healing to the bones.” When you are with a mild person, you feel just that way. You do not fear him, but, instead, his mild ways are like honey, “sweet to the soul and a healing to the bones.”
12. How does it help us to keep our place in Jehovah’s arrangements?
12 Mildness helps us to keep our place in Jehovah’s arrangement of things, because it aids us to be submissive. Said Paul: “But I want you to know that the head of every man is the Christ; in turn the head of a woman is the man; in turn the head of the Christ is God.” (1 Cor. 11:3) Yes, all of God’s servants are in relative subjection. To be so requires a mild spirit. It is the haughty in spirit that do not want to be submissive to Jehovah and his arrangements. In this regard what a fine example Jesus set! Of him God’s Word states: “Keep this mental attitude in you that was also in Christ Jesus, who, although he was existing in God’s form, gave no consideration to a seizure, namely, that he should be equal to God. No, but he emptied himself and took a slave’s form and came to be in the likeness of men. More than that, when he found himself in fashion as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient as far as death, yes, death on a torture stake.”—Phil. 2:5-8.
13. Mildness helps us to avoid what other undesirable trait?
13 An additional benefit to mildness is that it helps us avoid the tendency to want to “shine” in the eyes of others for the sake of self-glorification. This tendency should be avoided, as it is offensive to mature Christians and Jehovah as well, for it is based on false pride. “Everyone that is proud in heart is something detestable to Jehovah.” (Prov. 16:5) The mild person is more likely to realize this and avoid ambitiously seeking to excel at the expense of his brothers, or to flaunt an imagined superiority over them, or to seek to lord it over those other mild and sheeplike ones belonging to God. Jesus said: “The greatest one among you must be your minister. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” (Matt. 23:11, 12) Mildness helps us to act like a slave and not a boss when dealing with other Christians. It helps us to appreciate always that it is Jehovah who must be exalted, and that all men are born in sin and are in need of redemption. The mild person mindful of his fallen state and his need of Jehovah’s ransom arrangement is not apt to seek self-glorification.
PROGRESSIVELY CULTIVATE MILDNESS
14-16. Give three influences that work against mildness.
14 Probably most readers, even those who have come to an accurate knowledge of God’s Word, will be able to look back in their lives and say to themselves: “O, I certainly remember many times when I was not mild and should have been.” No doubt many feel that as of this moment they do not fit the Scriptural description of a mild person. This may be true of you, but it should not distress or discourage you so much that you quit trying to become milder. You must remember that mildness is not a quality that is inherited, that comes naturally at birth. No, due to inherited sin, imperfection, we are born with a tendency toward doing bad, not toward doing good. “Through one man sin entered into the world and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men because they had all sinned.” (Rom. 5:12) The psalmist David acknowledged this fact, for he said at Psalm 51:5: “Look! With error I was brought forth with birth pains, and in sin my mother conceived me.”
15 In addition, we have more that pulls us away from mildness. There are wicked spirit forces that oppose the activity of Christians and may put a test on their mildness by persecution or aggravation from earthly agents that are under demon influence. This opposition is well described by Paul at Ephesians 6:12: “We have a fight, not against blood and flesh, but against the governments, against the authorities, against the world rulers of this darkness, against the wicked spirit forces in the heavenly places.”
16 We also have this demon-controlled system of things and its bad spirit with which to contend. Daily most of us have to work among persons who do not have the spirit of mildness that comes from God, but who have the spirit of harshness that comes from Satan the Devil. The mental bent or mood of this present system of things works against Christian mildness.
17, 18. Since we cannot avoid all contact with the world, what do we need to do?
17 We cannot avoid all contact with those who lack a mild spirit, for, “otherwise, you would actually have to get out of the world.” What is called for is the restraining of one’s spirit so as not to retaliate in kind when others oppose or irritate. This restrained, mild spirit comes to our rescue in such times of stress and enables us to do as Paul states: “When being reviled, we bless; when being persecuted, we bear up; when being defamed, we entreat.” (1 Cor. 5:10; 4:12, 13) Here, too, Jesus set the pattern. “When he was being reviled, he did not go reviling in return. When he was suffering, he did not go threatening, but kept on committing himself to the one who judges righteously.”—1 Pet. 2:23.
18 With so many influences for bad at work, it becomes obvious that Christians will need to work diligently on this quality of mildness. It does not come naturally, without any effort on our part, for there are too many things that tend to make us hard instead. So, day by day, year by year, we must progressively cultivate mildness in order to counteract inherited sin, Satan the Devil and his demons, and those guided by the bad spirit of this system of things. If we do not work hard to cultivate mildness, then these things will tend to make us harsh like others in the world.
19. What preliminary step is necessary?
19 How do we go about cultivating mildness? First of all, by learning about it; by studying God’s Word and finding out that it needs to be cultivated, that it is a basic quality the Christian must have. That puts us on the right track. We know what direction we need to take, unlike worldlings who believe mildness is an undesirable quality and who believe that one must be hard, tough, arrogant, in order to get along in this world.
20. Why must we take human imperfection into account?
20 To assist us in our efforts to be milder as time progresses, we need to keep in mind continually the matter of human imperfection. We cannot escape the fact that all are born in imperfection and have a tendency to make mistakes. This awareness should make us see the need for empathy when dealing with others. It should make us appreciate that we have to be forgiving of others as God forgives them. Realize that they cannot produce perfect thinking and acting any more than we can. The person cultivating mildness will do this, forgiving even “seventy-seven times,” for the mild person is loving and “love covers a multitude of sins.”—Matt. 18:21, 22; 1 Pet. 4:8.
21, 22. Why should we avoid provoking others?
21 If we expect too much from others, more than God expects, we will be led to disappointment. This can bring a test upon us, because we may get to thinking that, since we did not get anywhere being mild, we may as well use harsh tactics. But this will serve only to provoke others to lose their mildness, and, in turn, their reaction may trigger a further lack of mildness on our part. It is a vicious circle. Far better not to start the process in the first place! It is as Proverbs 26:20 says: “Where there is no wood the fire goes out, and where there is no slanderer contention grows still.” But if we keep pressing and demanding and provoking, we should not at all be surprised if others get irritated, perhaps even angry. After all, it is contrary to human feeling to want to be provoked continually. Why, on one occasion, even Moses, “by far the meekest of all the men who were upon the surface of the ground” in his day, lost his mildness due to the unreasonable and provocative attitude of the Israelites! “They caused provocation at the waters of Meribah, so that it went badly with Moses by reason of them. For they embittered his spirit and he began to speak rashly with his lips.”—Num. 12:3; 20:2-13; Ps. 106:32, 33.
22 Not long ago a newspaper told of an incident that also demonstrates the matter of how harsh speech or actions can provoke others to a loss of mildness. It was an incident that happened to a woman member of the House of Commons in England. Once, she very sharply said to Winston Churchill, former prime minister of England: “If I were your wife, I’d put poison in your coffee.” Churchill snapped back: “If I were your husband I’d drink it.” Yes, she put wood on the fire and provoked a heated response. It was as Proverbs 26:21 notes: “As charcoal for the embers and wood for the fire, so is a contentious man [or woman] for causing a quarrel to glow.” We do not want to be like that, so we will be careful not to provoke others to lose their mildness on occasions.
23. How will acknowledging variety help our mildness?
23 Another thing that will help us in cultivating mildness is to recognize that Jehovah permits, within proper limits, a great variety in personalities, in tastes, in likes and dislikes. God has given man the marvelous gift of free moral agency. While this does not allow for complete freedom, for that would mean independence from God and his laws, it does allow relative freedom in many areas of human behavior. So do not insist on your own way or on your own taste in everything where Jehovah permits variety. Do not feel that everyone else has to fit into a mold you think best. Appreciate that all are different and do not try to make your own rules that would destroy the colorful differences that are part of God’s creation. Where strictness or conformity is required, where it comes to worship, to right doctrine and right conduct, then God’s Word, his holy spirit and his visible organization will keep us informed as to what we should do. But where matters are left largely to personal choice, such as in regard to what we should eat, what we should wear, what we choose to do for recreation and other such things, then keep in mind that, what God permits, we must also. This will help us not to be easily upset just because others have tastes that may differ from ours.
24, 25. Will cultivating mildness be easy?
24 Will cultivating mildness be an easy process? It may be easier for some than others, depending upon one’s background, early training, experiences in life and maturity in Christianity. However, if you are one who has difficulty cultivating it, then you may suffer more setbacks than others as you endeavor to do so. But do not be discouraged and quit trying. Note what Paul said at Romans 7:21-23: “I find, then, this law in my case: that when I wish to do what is right, what is bad is present with me. I really delight in the law of God according to the man I am within, but I behold in my members another law warring against the law of my mind.”
25 Yes, your fallen flesh, as well as outside influences, can give you much difficulty as you work to cultivate mildness, but you must not give up trying just because you lapse back into harsh ways at times. Think of the infant that is learning how to walk. He falls over and over again, but he gets up and keeps on trying until he finally succeeds and walks with confidence. So, too, as you work hard progressively to cultivate mildness, you may fail at times. But learn from the experience and reaffirm your determination to continue making progress. Recognize that growing to maturity in this matter of mildness takes time. Be satisfied with gradual improvement and do not stop trying just because the process may take longer than you had anticipated.
26. How will Jehovah help us in this matter?
26 Remember, too, that Jehovah is merciful. Where we fall short we can go to him in prayer and ask for forgiveness. We also want to pray constantly for assistance, because mildness is a product of Jehovah’s spirit. If we pray for God’s spirit, the spirit that produces mildness, then we are bound to make progress. In time, with this powerful help, the one lacking mildness will acquire it until it becomes a part of his personality, almost habitual, just as walking becomes almost habitual to the physically mature.
27. What rich rewards does mildness bring?
27 There is no doubt about it, cultivating mildness brings rich rewards. It results in a much happier life for you even though surrounded by distressing conditions, because you maintain your balance and are not distressed and hardened by them. Another reward mildness brings is that it makes you more receptive to the truth. As Jehovah continues progressively to reveal his will to you, you will be much more inclined to accept such new truths and pattern your life around them. What will this do for you? James 1:21 answers: “Accept with mildness the implanting of the word which is able to save your soul.” Yes, your salvation is involved! So be mild-tempered and thus put yourself in line for the fulfillment of God’s promise recorded at Psalm 37:11: “The meek ones themselves will possess the earth, and they will indeed find their exquisite delight in the abundance of peace.”