Ever burned holes in your socks? St. Francis de Sales did. He took seriously the words of Christ, “Learn from Me for I am meek and humble of heart.” As he said himself, it took him 20 years to conquer his temper, something no one ever suspected because his usual manner of acting was always kind and gentle. His goodness was not from birth; it was a conquest, step by step, with God’s help.
Meekness is a virtue that isn’t valued so much today because we tend to associate it with weakness. Our world today praises and rewards physical strength and domination over others, but how many of us have ever stopped to consider that it requires much more strength to dominate oneself in a moment of anger instead of losing control, screaming, and maybe even resorting to violence. To keep calm and stay quiet is not easy at all.
If meekness had no value at all, Our Lord would not have mentioned it among the Beatitudes, promising the one who possesses it that he will inherit the earth. And when imitating Him, He said, “Learn from Me, for I am meek and humble of heart” (Mt 11:29).
What is meekness?
It’s the virtue that moderates anger and its disordered effects. It’s strength through submission to God. It’s a perfect mix of patience, kindness, tolerance, and mercy all in one. It abandons what self-love demands and peacefully conforms to what others ask. It helps us to keep our cool and remain calm in the midst of adversity.
Meekness requires that we respect God and His things. It also requires us to have a lot of patience with ourselves to not lose our nerves in the face of trials and difficulties. And in our dealings with others, it helps us to not criticize others and to put mercy into our judgments. Meekness gives us strength to conquer any adversity and win over any enemy. St. Francis de Sales says that “a spoonful of honey attracts more flies than a barrelful of vinegar.” And in suffering, meekness takes away the bitterness we often experience, making it a “sweet yoke” to carry.
To see the beauty and awesomeness of this virtue, we have only to contemplate Our Lord in His dolorous Passion. What was His reaction to the insults, blows, and ridicule He received from His persecutors? His silence was a victory. Meekness can be a difficult virtue to practice, especially if we are tempted to hold grudges or give in to unjust anger. But we should take joy and find strength in conquering temptations to anger by looking at the wonderful promises of God.
Here are a few tips and ways to help you grow in this virtue.
How to grow in meekness:
• Know what meekness is. How can you grow in a virtue that you know nothing about? So congrats – just by reading this article, you’re already on your way to becoming a meek person.
• Pray to God for help. If you start to feel the first movements of anger within you, say a quick prayer to Jesus asking for meekness: “Jesus, help me to be meek.” Could it be simpler than that?
• Pray before speaking or typing. Just because we can’t see someone in front of us, doesn’t mean we’re entitled to say whatever we want. Social media can be used for the good, but it can also be a means to leave rude comments or insult others.
Meekness towards God:
• Be submissive to His will. Accept everything that happens to you, especially trials and sufferings with a gentle spirit. Even when you don’t understand, God permits it because He can bring about a greater good.
• Remember the words of the Our Father: “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Take comfort in the promise of God that when we forgive and show meekness towards people or situations that make us angry, He also will forgive us.
• Go to confession regularly. Don’t distance yourself from God or blame Him for wrong that you receive. By experiencing forgiveness yourself through the sacrament of Confession you will have the strength to also forgive others and silently accept trials.
Meekness towards others:
• Instead of arguing, choose silence. When tempted to anger, take a step back, breathe deeply, and pray before speaking, typing, or acting.
• When you have to speak, use a gentle voice. Shouting seldom resolves arguments, it only makes them worse.
• Be careful with your gestures. Actions often speak louder than words. It’s time to leave behind the bad habit of rolling our eyes, huffing and puffing, and pointing fingers. Put meekness into your body language.
Meekness toward yourself:
• Avoid angry thoughts and don’t let your emotions get out of control. Meekness begins in our thoughts before it conquers our hearts.
• Know how to forgive yourself and not get discouraged in the face of your many faults. When you fall, get up again. Don’t wallow in your anger.
• Make resolutions and be active in trying to fulfill them. It’s the best practical way to control our unruly passions and overcome them. We can even make resolutions to practice meekness even when we’re not angry. For example, speak gently instead of shouting, politely ask instead of demanding.