I am reminded this morning about a conversation I had last fall on the concept of meekness. Someone brought up the topic to me, saying she had trouble with it, since it seemed so weak and doormat-like. I remember the conversation mostly because of the vehemence of my response.
I immediately and forcefully said something to the effect of, “Oh! But the Bible says ‘we must come boldly unto the throne of grace,’ and we would not come to the throne of grace at all unless we knew God as supreme and ourselves not to be. Meekness is not in comparison with other people, it is in relation to God, and even with God we are charged with being bold! Meekness is strength and confidence sourced in something beyond yourself that elevates all in your midst on the same basis. We are to be deferential and submissive to God, not other people. Our meekness stems from the fact that we are the effect and not the Cause. But the Creator of the universe, of which we are offspring, is all about empowering us. The meeker we are, the more we acknowledge our dependence on our Source, and the more God’s omnipotent power can be weilded through us. The dictionary may say that the opposite of the word “meek” is “assertive,” but meekness is actually letting God be assertive through us, which in the world never translates as weak and doormat-like, even when it might look docile or mild. Whenever we are backed by God’s genuine agenda, power is clearly what is going on. Jesus is the ultimate example of this, but we are to do it too.”
I remembered that visceral response this morning while reading the Christian Science Bible Lesson. I was reading about God anointing with oil (see Ezekiel 16:8,9 and Psalms 23:1-6) and coupling that with one of my favorite definitions in the glossary of Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy, “Oil: Consecration; charity; gentleness; prayer; heavenly inspiration.” (As a side note you might like to read here in a former blog post about how I used this definition to overcome resistance.) Anyway, anointing with oil is symbolic of giving someone power and also signifies giving someone a holy purpose. So what gives us power and a holy purpose? Well consecration, charity, gentleness, prayer, and heavenly inspiration, of course.
This struck me as a similar idea to the discussion I had last fall about meekness. It is perhaps easier to see that consecration can give us power, than gentleness does, since obviously devoting oneself to a particular intention can naturally lead to power. But upon consideration, it is apparent that kind benevolence leads to more actual power than the opposite of gentleness–called brutality– does. Charity involves power but it is not power over others, as it might seem, but rather tender consideration that bolsters and elevates them, proving others equal to yourself. For those who do not pray, prayer may not seem like power, but those of us that do pray have no doubt of the power of prayer, since we have seen its dramatic effect. Heavenly inspiration seems a bit airy fairy, but true inspiration is revelation with legs– inspiration that comes partnered with actions impelled by the Most High. So yes, all those virtues in the definition of oil yield power too, just like meekness does.
Mrs. Eddy writes, “What we most need is the prayer of fervent desire for growth in grace, expressed in patience, meekness, love and good deeds,” and, “Meekness and charity have divine authority.” She goes on to explain, “Meekness heightens immortal attributes only by removing the dust that dims them,” and, “Meekness, moderating human desire, inspires wisdom and procures divine power.” She instructs us, “Strive for self-abnegation, justice, meekness, mercy, purity, and love.” This amazingly powerful woman, valued selfless meekness mightily, and it served her well. Indeed she was anointed with oil– swimming in it– and she would beg us to be as well.
Meekness and being anointed with oil are not about self or lording over others, but they certainly are about the power to exercise God’s benevolent will. That’s why the beatitudes promise, “Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.” Let’s inherit it together!
Thank you Polly for this very empowering and uplifting view of meekness, with its openness to letting divine Love act through us, for the benefit of all!
Not only is this a wonderful explanation, it has really met a need in my practice today. I shall never forget the brilliant point you made, that heavenly inspiration is revelation with legs! Thank you, Polly.
I found this post extremely empowering as well as reassuring. Thank you!..It reminds me, too, of a lesson I once taught my high school students. I was very young myself, and in the throes of learning some lessons about meekness at work, but found myself moderating a discussion of students who wanted to talk about fighting. There had been a number of physical fights at the school where I taught and the culture at the school, and surrounding neighborhood, could be very violent at times. Many of the students voiced not actually wanting to fight but said they often found themselves attacked or at least taunted and provoked. They said they’d be seen as weak if they didn’t fight back. I understood their dilemma and felt compassion. But I asked them this question, “In that moment when someone is taunting you, which requires more strength (or which feels harder to do): to react and throw a punch or some angry words back at them or to run away or offer some sort of neutral or kind response instead?” They all replied quickly that of course it feels harder to just walk away. I said, “So it actually requires more strength to take that higher stand. To not give in and react. To be humble. But you are in fact the stronger person for it.” They liked that and I think they took it to heart. It was a lesson I was learning in a different context – about being meek and gentle with others (which makes you spiritually mighty) instead of giving in to any temptation to react or act in a way that is not on the side of love and isn’t God-directed. I always think of Christ Jesus as our highest example of that. And definitely, as you said, Mrs. Eddy is a powerful example as well. Thanks again for this and I’m next going to read your relevant post about overcoming resistance.