Watching little children is delightful and very educational and when my daughter was a toddler her interaction with animals was especially insightful. Trying to pet our ageing and mostly docile tomcat, she would pound him on the head, making him growl with displeasure. Eventually he avoided her altogether or took a swipe at her with his claws if she came too near. I remember telling her, “Gentle, gentle,” but she could not be gentle. Her little hands and arms were not strong enough to move with the precision that gentleness requires. The spirit was willing, but the flesh, alas, was weak.
That brought me to a new realization of the relationship between strength and gentleness: only those who are truly strong are truly gentle. God is the one who is most powerful, but He is also characterized as being gentle (see e.g. Deu. 1:31; Isa. 40:11; 66:13). As we know the Lord and become stronger in the Spirit through our relationship with Him (see the fruit of the Spirit in Gal. 5:22-23), we become more gentle as well, much like Paul and his coworkers were towards the Thessalonians (1Th. 2:7). Thus how gentle you are is a good measure of how godly you are.
Gentleness does not mean lack of firmness. It takes a firm hand to be truly gentle and precise. Strength is not shown in destruction, but in creation. A “strong man” who goes around smashing stuff like Superman does is not truly strong; nor is someone who constantly says things in a harsh, cutting manner, no matter how he justifies his razor-sharp tongue. Such a one is weak because he cannot control himself. Strength and gentleness are inextricably bound together by self-control, making the strong truly gentle.