"Gentle Beauty at the Close of Day"
Yesterday, I came across what may be one of the most well-known teachings of Jesus:
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth
It struck me that, while this may be a very familiar Jesus' saying, it is also probably one of his most misunderstood teachings. In fact, I would have to say that, for most of my life, I never quite understood why meek people might or even should "inherit the earth."
After all, we live in a culture of "might makes right." Greater resources, fatter bank accounts, more things and possessions, higher status in the hierarchy of life, physical charm - it all adds up to greater power and more control. The popular culture teaches that power and control over others brings ultimate happiness.
When we hear the word "meek, " we conjure up qualities that are at the opposite end of the pole of power and might.
Meek people are "wimpy." Meek people are submissive. Meek people are weak. They don't fight back or stand up for themselves. They are doormats who allow themselves to be stepped on and used by stronger others. So why or how do the "meek inherit the earth?"
Actually, when Jesus talks about being "meek," he is hardly encouraging people to be wimpy - submissive with no backbone. In fact, the way Jesus understands it, meekness is not weakness at all. In fact, "meekness" is the ultimate source of genuine power and might.
Simply put, a meek person is the polar opposite of the narcissist.
Instead of seeing his or her "self" as the focus of everyone else's attention, the meek person is "other-centered." The "ego" of a meek person is very small indeed. Meek persons do not focus on what they can get out of life, but on what they can bring to life.
The "meek" person has lost the ego and found the true self.
This morning, as I reflected on "meekness," I came up with a partial list of some some possible characteristics of a meek person:
- a person who refrains from revenge and holds no grudges
-a person without guile (what you see is what you get)
-a person who truly 'listens' to what another is saying
-a wise person open to reason
-a person who has a clear opinion, but is flexible enough to change his or her mind.
-a person who can teach as well as be taught
-a person who respects the dignity of others even when he or she disagrees with them
-a person who really wants others to be just as happy and successful as he or she is
There is a saying that comes out of the stories of the fourth century Christian Desert Mothers and Fathers: A young monk comes to his older and wiser Abba and asks what it means to be "meek." The old Abba responds: "meekness is forgiving a brother even before he tells you he is sorry."
I think this pretty much gets at the essence of meekness: Meekness is "other-centered" living.
Bullies and people who crush and dominate others actually have very little real, genuine, or lasting power. Bullies and narcissists come and go, and when they are gone everyone is happy about it.
The meek are the real powerful ones. They unleash a spirit of human freedom and build a better world of enduring and lasting compassion.
This is why the meek inherit the earth.