"Meekness is the virtue of gentleness with others, especially with those who arouse me to anger. Meekness is not weakness, but strength—the strength of virtue."—My Daily Bread
Original piece by Ludovic François on Unsplash.
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The Definition of Meekness
The definition of meekness from a Christian perspective was always something I struggled to understand until I read this passage from Tan Books’ My Daily Bread. This confusion is no doubt because of the dictionary’s definition of it, which gives it a tinge of negativity and weakness:
meek | mēk | adjective
quiet, gentle, and easily imposed on; submissive: I used to call her Miss Mouse because she was so meek and mild | the meek compliance of our politicians.
—New Oxford American Dictionary
This Christian definition of meekness in this wallpaper is one of quiet, yet potent, strength. Meekness itself mirrors Christ’s promised reward for those who live it out:
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”—Matthew 5:5 (RSV2CE)
The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible New Testament elaborates on the definition of meekness:
“Those who appear powerless and insignificant in the eyes of the world [are meek]. Far from being weak, however, the meek possess an inner strength to restrain anger and discouragement in the midst of adversity. Meekness is exemplified in the life of Moses (Num 12:3) and especially Jesus (11:29; 21:5). In the end, the meek will inherit the earth (or “the land” as in Ps 37:11). This refers either to heaven itself, envisioned as a new Promised Land (Heb 11:16), or to the new creation that is to come (Rom 8:21; Rev 21:1).”—The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible New Testament
It is by meekness, the virtue of gentleness, that we tame and properly channel our anger:
A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man quietly holds it back.—Proverbs 29:11 (RSVCE)
Be not quick to anger, for anger lodges in the bosom of fools.—Ecclesiastes 7:9 (RSVCE)
The Oxford definition focuses on the outward perception of meekness, but the Christian definition focuses on the true, intense, and disciplined self-control being grappled with below the surface of the person.
Speaking to Those Who Arouse You to Anger
When sharing or defending the Word with others, it can stir up frustration and anger in us. Even if our anger is righteous, we have to be prudent in how we respond. In some cases, the proper response may be akin to Jesus driving out those making a disgrace of his Father’s house with a whip (John 2:13-25): very direct and sharp as a sword (and let’s keep in mind he didn’t physically whip anyone in this event; he did what was perfectly sufficient).
In other cases, the way forward may be less so a physical stand and purely an intellectual discussion, as we see Jesus making perfect rebuttals to the Pharisee’s objections at the end of the same chapter, in John 2:18-28. (I do have to chuckle at his salty insults he sometimes peppers the Pharisees with, like “have you never read” in 2:25) 😁
When determining how to respond to someone, we need to recognize the Holy Spirit’s prompting of how we can be most Christ-like. Christ always made the perfect response based on who he was responding to and the state of that person. Some people respond more to a physical stand, others to an intellectual flex, and still others to an emotional touch.
The goal is to speak through to their soul that they have guarded away in their interior castle. Do you head straight for the front door of their castle? Or through a surreptitious side door with a gentle approach that is equal parts surprising and disarming?
Pray, exercise meekness, take a breath, be courageous, and respond as best as you are able.