Deceptive and Despised

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“Meekness is both misunderstood and even despised (Neal A. Maxwell).” However, I think it is despised because it’s misunderstood. But isn’t that true with many things that we initially dislike? In my home, we experience this nearly every day at dinner time. My 5-year-old son will always ask, “Is this something I like?” After using all my persuasive parenting skills, he’ll look at the food and decide that he doesn’t like without even trying it. And then after some more coaxing, he’ll finally try it, and most of the time it will result in a surprised look on his face as he declares with bewilderment that it tastes good.

So often the meek are viewed as the used and abused. Meekness is seen as being pushed around, as mere shoulder-shrugging acceptance or giving up or giving in. We associate meekness with acquiescence. It is defined as being timid, having low confidence, and a lack of self-respect. We call those who can be easily manipulated the meek ones. Meek is associated with being a human doormat. We define meek as one who conforms. Sadly we see meek as weak and powerless.

Of course, if all of this was true meekness, why would we ever desire to become meek? No wonder meek is despised by so many. Who would actively seek to become meek if being meek was being a pushover with low confidence? Who would want to be meek and lowly of heart if that meant becoming submissively compliant to the whims of others?

We mistakenly see meek and confidence like oil and water, unable to reside in the same space at the same time. Incompatible but cordial due to pressures of social obligation.

Ironically, we despise meekness yet we praise the meek for their breathtaking generous acts of selfless service and unmeasurable moments of sacrifice. They are the heroes we love to celebrate but not emulate.

“There is, of course, much accumulated stereotyping surrounding this virtue. We even make nervous jokes about meekness, such as, ‘If they meek intend to inherit the earth, they are going to have to be more aggressive about it!’ We even tend to think of a meek individual as being used and abused – as being a doormat for others. (Neal A. Maxwell, Ensing/March 1983, Meekness – A Dimension of True Discipleship).”

To be fair, we also see good things in meek. The meek are easy to get along with, they are kind, they are considerate, gentle, polite and thoughtful. The meek are selfless. They are teachable, apologetic, and willing to make room for others. They are givers. They serve, they love. They have a big heart. They are patient. They seek to understand. They are enjoyable to be with. They cheer you on and are supportive. They are willing to make sacrifices for others. They will put you and your needs first. They will give you the shirt off their back.

But is meek really a productive characteristic? Can you be successful if meek is driving your decisions? Are the meek even ambitious? Is it possible to be a strong leader if you are meek?

I absolutely believe that the answer to all those questions is yes! I think that meek is a virtue that makes us stronger individuals. The challenge for me is that I’ve developed some incorrect views about meekness. And so I’ve been evaluating my current opinions of meekness trying to see meek accurately. But the hardest part of this journey is trying to participate in meekness in a more powerful productive manner. It’s like trying to cross my right leg over my left when I’ve been crossing my left over my right all my life.