The meek are far from weak; in fact, they show their strength in their ability to control their anger/wrath. Aristotle defined meekness (πραΰτης – praotes) as the middle ground between being too angry and not being angry enough.
-by Br Pablo Rodriquez Jorda’, OP, English Province
“Few virtues demand greater courage of us than meekness. Think about it. Meekness is precisely what it takes to respond with gentleness when one is wronged; to resist being overcome by anger, or by desire; to hold your tongue, when you feel the impulse to criticise, or to complain; to keep on doing what you know to be right, even when everything has turned against you. To be meek, you have to be fierce, steadfast; you need all of your strength, an indomitable will, a steely determination.
Meekness is not of this world, a world where everything seeks its own advantage, everything is urged by necessity. Nature does not spare her children: whatever is dragged in her everchanging tide falls apart, disperses, loses shape, like a land untilled, parched, covered in weeds and brambles. Nothing could be farther from such passivity and inertia than meekness. We often forget the strangeness of the truly meek person. Imagine you meet someone (and perhaps you already have) who is authentic and without guile, who does and says exactly what they want to do and say. Someone who is free from inner turmoil, free to pursue what is best at every moment without hindrance or effort, and is all the happier for it. In sum, imagine you meet someone who is their own master. You would be right to think: what a strange creature, what a daunting disturbance to the order of nature!
How could we achieve such degree of self-mastery? Is it a matter of effort, of technique, of doing violence to oneself, of strength or will power? Well, in a sense it is. Strength is needed, but the best of human efforts is not enough, for the weakness of God is stronger than men. Will power is needed, but a power beyond our reach. Every day in the Our Father we pray, Thy will be done on earth, this earth which I am, often untilled, parched, covered in weeds and
brambles. In the opening story of Genesis, God creates the heavens and the stars, and all living creatures, through the power of His word; but us He shapes out of the earth, using His hands, like a craftsman producing His masterpiece. It is an image of intimacy: only God knows the depths of who I am, who I can become, who I will become. And for that reason, we pray: Thy will be done on earth. We hope to become good earth, receptive, listening, ready to be broken up and refashioned. It is, paradoxically, only when I am meek and docile to His will that I become myself. It is only by obeying Another that I become my own master. And so what seems like docility is in fact an act of courage, and the prize of our steadfastness, of our clinging to God’s will, is that we are returned to ourselves. The meek inherit the earth.”
“When I’ve struggled with “anger” in the past, I’ve often thought, at the moment, that I was being reasonable. Nonetheless, more often than not, I’ve looked back on those moments of anger only to realize that this was only half-the-truth. Reason may have been operating, but there was likely a dimension within myself that wouldn’t entertain an alternative viewpoint. For this reason, St. Thomas Aquinas suggests, as the spiritual master he is, that to counterbalance the vice of Wrath (anger, when it isn’t righteous) we apply meekness.
What I often observe, however, which is where this gets tricky, is too quickly we jump to the assumption that our anger is righteous. In that moment, our fallen nature is no longer at play, we have become as immaculate as the Virgin Mary and her Son, at least in a passive manner, gazing outwardly with rage and discontent. If we have to justify our anger as “righteous” we may actually be too occupied with our own moral disposition than what we are meant to be focused on in a spirit of love for the good.
I’d like to suggest that a regular arrival at the passion “anger” can lead us down a path that is to cause us to become untrustworthy most especially to ourselves, and simply being open to this possibility is of itself a sign that perhaps our anger isn’t disordered. Or even admitting where it is imperfect, concretely. As the “Imitation for Christ” insists: the passionate man is untrustworthy.
Here one may condemn the errors of emotivism, but in practice, they cannot distinguish between their own interior battle with integrity and truth.
What are signs that our way of thinking, our inclination to be angry in a disproportionate (unreasonable manner) has taken over? One is “murmuring.” It is the habit of complaining, whereby we never delight in any improvement, but always “to on to the next thing.” In Catholic circles, this is often tagged as an ‘actively disengaged’ Christian. They are not part of the building up of the Kingdom, nor even the tearing down of structures, they simply only find fault and then consume rage like popcorn. Rather than looking towards the dysfunction with a sense of one’s own potential to have fallen into the same errors, they look at it as though lofty and self-sufficient. And it’s in this anger that often, years later, looking back through the lens of grace, one comes to the terms with their own hypocrisy. That is definitely an ongoing experience in my life – but maybe I’m alone in that.
Meekness in the face of disordered anger is really only possible by the power of the Holy Spirit that gives us “competence” or “self-control.” Both of these things mean to have a strong mind, whereby the flare-up of passion does not trump a discernment process, nor a process that is quick to factor in our own fallen-ness. The mind bends to possibilities that run contrary to the accusations that derive from our passions, and meekness is a habitual act within the soul to assess anger.
Meekness does not denounce anger, but it keeps it hinged to reason, whereby it excludes it when as a passion it is unreasonable, or it moderates it and channels it to something proactive, creative, and redeeming, when it is rooted in the right spirit of things. Without meekness man is lost to his passions, he lacks the Holy Spirit in his mind, and his own discernment cannot be trusted. In this sense we must admit that the sin of wrath is both an addiction and a sign of a weak, broken, mind that thinks itself strong, righteous, and intelligent.
I remember a number of years ago promoting the integration of meekness into our spiritual lives only to receive very livid Christians demanding that meekness was a vice. They were certain about this, and could not dare to quiet themselves before Christ’s Sermon on the Mount. For this reason, Scripture can be the cold water poured upon our passions.”