Recently I’ve been thinking some about virtue. That is, what is virtuous and what isn’t. For example, I’ve written about how being “nice” is not a virtue while being good is. All of this may seem like semantics or splitting hairs but it’s more than that. How we view these things impacts how we live our lives. It impacts how we view ourselves and our context, including if our context happens to be singleness. I want to tackle a few more of these thoughts in the context of singleness.
Today I want to talk bout the idea of meekness. Meekness is indeed a virtue. So much so in fact that Jesus says in Matthew 5 that the meek shall inherit the earth. But we are very confused in our culture, even in our Christian culture, about what meekness is.
If you asked the average person what it means to be meek, I think you’d get words like: weakness, passive, nice, tame, mild mannered, bland, unambitious, shy, insecure, etc. But I don’t think those are right at all.
Just try out those words with the scripture. The nice will inherit the earth. The tame shall inherit the earth. The bland will inherit the earth. The passive will inherit the earth. The insecure will inherit the earth. The weak shall inherit the earth. None of those really work.
Here’s the truth. Weakness is not a virtue. Knowing your weakness might well be. Indeed understanding that I’m weak in a lot of ways could be virtuous. God tells Paul that in his weakness, God is strong. If I understand where I’m weak then I can count on God in that area – but I count on God to be my strength. So in that sense it works.
But Jesus is not saying the weak willed will inherit the earth. That’s not what meek means.
Meek means something closer to gentle. Gentleness has nothing to do with weakness. All sorts of weak men are not gentle. Meek means even though I have the ability to lash out or be angry, or strike you down, I don’t. It is to have a sword and not use it. It doesn’t mean to not have a sword.
Ambrose (one of the Church Fathers) writes in his commentary on this scripture,
Soften therefore your temper that you be not angry, at least that you be angry, and sin not. It is a noble thing to govern passion by reason; nor is it a less virtue to check anger, than to be entirely without anger, since one is esteemed the sign of a weak, the other of a strong, mind.
In other words to be meek, to control your temper, is the sign of strength, not of weakness. It would be more accurate to say that meekness means strength controlled. It is about self control not about the inability to act.
Kindness and gentleness come from this. A man who is strong with the ability to be unkind and dangerous but who chooses not to be; that is virtuous. A rabbit is safe. It’s not dangerous. It’s prey. Jesus is not asking you to be prey. He’s asking you to not use your strength the wrong way.
This matters mostly in how we see ourselves as men. Being weak and non dangerous does not make one virtuous. If I see myself as weak, passive, unable to act, then I’m actually less likely to actually be meek. But if I know my strength, Know that I am capable of great harm, but choose to not do that harm, that is virtuous.
Now you may be asking what this has to do with singleness. It matters because it impacts how I view myself as a man and therefore how I carry myself. If I know my strength, know what I’m capable of (and what I’m not capable of for that matter) then I can choose when to assert it. A meek man is self controlled and yet confident. A weak man is fear controlled and unconfident. Women are attracted to confidence.
Part of the point here is that you can be virtuous and be attractive. You can even have the virtue of meekness and be attractive. More soon on attractiveness and virtue.