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3 ways to be humble yet strong with those you love

Blessed are the meek? What words spring to mind when you think about a “meek” person? I’ve written many letters of recommendation, but as I pondered this beatitude, it occurred to me that I had never described a student as “meek!” After all, some words that are considered its synonyms aren’t flattering terms: spineless, fainthearted, lacking spirit, weak-kneed. Meekness and humility aren’t valued in our culture. We don’t often hear the words Shakespeare wrote in Richard III: “I thank my God for my humility.”

Blessed are meek spouses. Bishop Fulton Sheen wrote, “Meekness is not cowardice; meekness is not an easy-going temperament, sluggish, and hard to arouse: meekness is not a spineless passivity that allows everyone to walk over us. No! Meekness is self-possession. That is why the reward of meekness is possession (of the earth). A weak person can never be meek, because he is never self-possessed.” Mary was meek in her acceptance of God’s will; it was an active choice, not passive compliance. Joseph was meek, having the self-possession to ignore what others might think of his pregnant betrothed.

Relationships involve self-control:

1  Listening to an entire thought – no interrupting!

2  Evaluating how choices affect both of you.

3  Voice strong opinions, but express them gently, with a sincere intention to work together

Blessed are meek parents. Meekness involves “bearing difficulties with patience and humility.” This fits the vocation of parenthood; raising children is not for the weak-kneed! Patience requires strength and self-control. If a rule is violated then it means enforcing the consequences. Living with a teen who has been grounded is punishment for the parent as well as for the child. But effective discipline is fair and firm, not unpredictable and based on a parent’s mood. Sometimes parents make mistakes, too. When I’m tired and worried about a child, I tend to overdo the consequences, taking away a week’s car privileges over a minor issue. When we are alone, my husband will say, “Isn’t that a bit extreme?” Sometimes I end up telling the teen, “I overreacted. You are only grounded from the car for a day.” As she walks off muttering, “No kidding, you overreacted,” I want to change it back to a week!

Grapevines twist around wires next to the parking lot at our diocesan retreat center. As spring flows into summer, the vines grow lush. Eventually the sweet smell of grapes will greet each visitor and the vines will sag toward the earth, heavy with fruit. The meek are like these vines. Over time, with the warmth of the Son’s love, they become stronger and more fruitful. The meek have not been trampled into the ground by adversity. Instead, they are laden with the fruits of the Spirit.