Be ‘gentle,’ not meek, to inherit the Earth

Ever meet someone who wanted to grow up “meek?”   

You know, as in “the meek‘ shall inherit the Earth?”   

Eat your Wheaties, and you too can become as meek as Babe Ruth,” is a jingle I bet you never heard out of Madison Avenue. Or how about The Army builds meek men one body at a time?”   

Being meek is not something you train for, or something Western Civilization puts a lot of premium upon. Meek is almost synonymous with “weak,” a word no red-blooded American (Canadian, Mexican or South American) would ever want to be called. Or admire. Can’t see anyone in the entire Western Hemisphere encouraging people to be meek.   

So, who interpreted the words of the Gospel to create such a non-starter for a group history later called Christians?   

Who would want meekness? Who would want be as docile as a lamb? And, more importantly, who’d want someone else to adopt such behavior? And, maybe even offer an incentive for you to live life that way. “Become meek, and you can own “land” as your just reward.”    

“Be meek, and you too shall ‘inherit the Earth’.” Did someone from the early Church suggest it? Could a group of all-white-males sitting around a lunch table contemplating the future of a new religion have “created” the term?   

Not “meek” with the money-changers. But very “gentle” with the children.

Perhaps, to encourage the mostly unlettered believers to “follow the line;” not question Authority? Be meek. Wish I knew of other interpretations. “Gentle” is an attribute I could accept. Not only from a spiritual perspective, but a secular one. As a young man learning the ways of the world. To become a true “gentle” man. Like something out of a Charles Dickens ‘ novel. A gentleman always displays compassion. A gentleman never raises his voice unnecessarily. A gentleman would give up his fortune rather than go back on his word. A true gentleman would give up his own life so that another might live.   

What of the Eastern thought on this concept of meekness? Would Buddha have preached enlightenment using the word meek? When I think of a monk, I envision someone quiet, peaceful, wanting or needed little to sustain him or her self. But meek? To “be meek” is, in some ways, to be subservient. To “give in,”  and not rock the boat;  to avoid most of life for fear of disrupting one’s meekness. When I meditate, I don’t become meek. I ease into a love and a compassion that urges me to engage with the world, to share my concern with others, to help another less fortunate than myself. To be active in bringing all beings toward happiness and away from suffering. One meek in spirit can hardly help another along their journey. Gentle in manner, speech and action, yes. But not meek.   

And I applaud my friend, Katharine, — sanctuarywithoutwalls —  for rescuing me from any further despair. She tells me there is a source that deleted the word “meek” from its interpretation. In the New American Standard Bible, it is the “Gentle” that are “Blessed.” It is the “Gentle” that “inherit the Earth.” see Matthew 5-5.  Now I can dig it. The Beatitude, that is, not the Earth. Give me the Blessed, too. I’ll be gentle.

9 comments on “Be ‘gentle,’ not meek, to inherit the Earth

  1. mittaipink says:

    Good post! Something most of us all struggle with.. turning the other cheek..can it be interpreted as meekness?
    Hinduism doesn’t talk about meekness- acceptance and forgiveness – but most of our stories are about lots of anger and fighting. Valor is so cherished. The books maybe.

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  2. Actually, the word “meek” was a mistranslation–the “committee” that put together the King James Bible picked an Old Norse word with the wrong connotations–“gentle” would have been a much better choice. For information on a manuscript with the Beatitudes and the Lord’s Prayer in Aramaic can be found in Prayers of the Cosmos, and in The Hidden Gospel: Decoding the Spiritual Message of the Aramaic Jesus, both by Neil Douglas-Klotz. In Prayers of the Cosmos he gives ten possible translations for each line of the Beatitudes and the Lord’s prayer–completely different way of expressing the metaphors. In fact, I wanted a “one translation” of my own (I’m a linguist), so I studied his work and came up with one–will share it if you’re interested…. It’s cool you SEE this without knowing you know it! best, ally

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    • A linguist? You ought to meet my friend Nancy aks saradode (see below). She has visions with words in different ancient languages and is right on target in her communications with me.

      Both of us see God in much of the mundane. Let me know more about your path, allyshenandoahdreams.

      michael j

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  3. kim says:

    I love your take on this. Recently saw an interview of Max Lucado talking about fear. In the Bible, Jesus says over and over, ‘do not be afraid.’ The ‘meek seem to be fearful types, so being meek seems inconsistent with the message. A person can be courageous and gentle. The Dalai Lama comes to mine. He is not meek. I can’t help thinking that when the ancient scrolls were interpreted by the Nicene that mistakes happened. It was three hundred or more years later, and they were interpreting them from Hebrew, a foreign language to them. And yes, I do think politics may also have played a part in some misinterpretations as well.

    Very interesting points you make, and I’m glad the new Bible got it right!

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    • Courageous and gentle!

      What a way to go through life.

      Not cowering, not receeding, not resigning.

      But remaining in game, staying active, lending the hand all in a gentle manner.

      Wow, Kim, I like the way you put this!

      michael j

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  4. saradode says:

    MICHAEL! I swear that you read my mind this morning and directly answered a question I’m struggling with like crazy at the moment! Where is the line between being gentle, forgiving, and compassionate, and in rolling over and exposing one’s throat over and over and over? Your distinction between gentleness and meekness (subservient, masochistic doormat-ness) has helped to clarify the difference so much. Thank you for the gift!

    Nancy

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    • Nancy,

      I never saw Christ as meek. Gentle, yes, but not meek. He would turn the other cheek and express compassion toward someone angered, but “roll over” or serve as a “door mat?”

      Not the man who chased from the Temple the money changers in the heat of what we call “righteous anger.”

      And chastising his own Apostles when some wanted only the sick and the maimed to come to Jesus for a “healing,” and kept away the little children. Now, that’s my kind of the Savior. One tough with a deceptive merchant class and one gentle enough to let all generations to follow know that unless we be like little children, we may not “enter” the Kingdom of Heaven.

      Meek? No way Jose!

      Good to see your smiling face again.
      Within you and without.

      Makes my heart warm.

      michael j

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      • saradode says:

        I agree with your thoughts on those “interpretations”, Kim. I think a lot was lost in the translation. I’ve often wished that Jesus had kept a journal, and that someone who could be trusted found it and held onto it :).

        He must have understood and learned to put into practice anger–and love–in which the ego plays no part. Divine anger, and divine love, would have to be like that. If we could all just understand and master that much…

        Thank you both.

        Nancy
        http://saradode.wordpress.com

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