Gentleness Overcoming Arrogance and Haughtiness

by | Jun 24, 2023 | Formation, Reflections

Throughout history, many philosophers and theologians have reflected on the virtue of meekness. Even Jesus is no exception. In the Gospel according to Matthew, Jesus says, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart” (Mt. 11:24). Perhaps this is the only time that Jesus invites his followers to imitate him because he is “meek and humble of heart.” Carlo Mazzantini, an Italian philosopher, defines meekness as “letting the other be what they are.” If someone is a liar, arrogant, violent, or a bully, a meek person leaves that person as they are not because they don’t want them to change or be changed, but because they do not want to use the same weapons as the arrogant, violent, and deceptive. Therefore, the “meek” person tries to do so respectfully, lovingly, and in small steps, little by little, trying to disarm them by making them face the absurdity of their arrogance and bullying. In respectful love, Blaise Pascal said, “silence is more eloquent than words.” The meek person is one who does not like competition, contests and rivalries. The meek person lives a life in which there are neither winners nor losers. Of course, meekness is not submissiveness. The submissive is one who gives up fighting out of fear or weakness. The meek, on the other hand, rejects the sense of bloody, vain and narcissistic struggle. The meek man is not overcome by the desire for revenge and does not perpetuate quarrels out of principle. Jesus revealed Himself to be not only the model and source of our meekness, but He is above all “the personification” of the Father’s meekness. Indeed, in the Beatitudes He proclaims: “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (Mt. 5:4).



1.1) In general, the Bible presents us with certain figures who are ‘models of meekness and humility’, such as Moses. Let us note from the outset, then, that meekness is neither a sign of weakness nor a lack of firmness and constancy. The meek person, according to the Bible, is first and foremost a person who submits to God in trusting humility in God’s hands. This servile submission, like that of Mary of Nazareth, is founded and rooted in God’s gratuitous love. The individual’s personal history, works and prayers are guided by this love. The meek person experiences God confidently in his life and is serene. Indeed, the book of Psalms has recorded many such examples.

1.2) In Scripture, we have many teachings about the “immeasurable goodness of God” in the form of various prayers and exhortations. In fact, the prophet Nahum says: “Good is the Lord, a safe haven in the day of distress” (1:7). Ps 34:15 on the other hand prays: stay away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it. Ps 31:20 prays and sings of the immense goodness of God when it says: ‘how great is your goodness Lord. You reserve it for those who fear you…’. God manifests his goodness in creating and governing the universe: “he governs all things with excellent goodness”. The Lord invites mankind to enjoy his goodness (Ps 34:4), all that God provides and provides for man is a sign of his benevolent love: “sweeter than honey are thy words, thy law and thy decrees”. The Father is the one who cares for all his children, cares for each one personally and individually. Exodus 3:7-8 expresses God’s compassionate goodness in an excellent way. “The Lord said: I have observed the misery of my people in Egypt and I have heard their cry because of their rulers, I know their sufferings. I have come down to deliver them from the power of Egypt and to raise them up from this land to a land that is beautiful and spacious, to a land where milk and honey flows…”. This God is a God who makes himself a pilgrim out of love. He is such a good God that He not only comes down from His Heavenly Throne but makes a covenant with His people: “I will be with you” (v. 12); that is, “I will be your Emmanuel, God with us”. This promise “I will be with you” was given during the walk in the desert (a symbol of despair, disappointment, frustration, of a people or individual without an answer to their many “whys” in life).

The goodness of this Lord changes the lot of mankind, who does well to pray saying: trust in the Lord and do good (Ps 37:3); if you want to be sure to contemplate the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living (Ps 27:13). Man must learn from the goodness of the Lord and His meekness because “the merit of man is his goodness; better a poor man than a liar” says the book of Proverbs 19:22.

1.3) In the New Testament, Jesus Himself describes Himself as meek (Mt 11:29). In fact, in His public ministry He became close to sinners, prostitutes, publicans, and all the categories that the Jewish religion considered ‘impure’, therefore, a man of God, a prophet like Jesus could not and should not approach them. Jesus, on the other hand, reasoned differently, never excluding anyone in His ministry to the point of considering ‘the Sabbath is for man and not the other way around’. He made so many enemies for this position, that is, for His immense and boundless goodness. As we know, He paid a high price for this, shedding His blood on Calvary. St Paul exhorts us to follow the Master’s goodness (2 Cor 10:1) precisely because he considers it a gift of the Spirit of the Risen One: the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness; goodness, faithfulness, meekness, self-control (Gal 5:22). Meekness is a virtue of the man of God. “But you, man of God, flee these things: tend to righteousness, godliness, faith, charity, patience, meekness” (1 Tim 6:11). In essence, Paul’s exhortation is to be gentle and docile in repenting even to those you do not love, to your adversaries and enemies in the hope that God will allow them to convert, so that they may recognise the truth (2 Tim 2:25). Moreover, meekness is the disposition to accept the Gospel: “accept with meekness the word that has been sown in you and that can save your souls” (Jas 1:21).

2. The virtue of meekness in the teaching of St Vincent and for us today.

Those who wish to follow Christ and continue His mission (which is the aim of our Vincentian charism), see in meekness the sign of the working presence of the Spirit of God in us. The meekness of which Christ is the model must characterise our lives as Christians and consecrated persons. “Meekness is the distinguishing mark of those who belong to Jesus Christ” (SV). The Apostle James says: “Who is wise and shrewd among you? Show by your good conduct your works inspired by wise meekness […]. The wisdom that comes from above is first of all pure; then peaceable, meek, yielding, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy’. We too must put ourselves in His school, in that of the humble and meek Master, Jesus.

2.1) As for the virtue of meekness, St. Vincent took much from his spiritual master: St. Francis de Sales. Indeed, SV tries to see the benefits of this virtue especially in human relationships in community. The meek make community life, either an oasis or a small paradise: My dear daughters, he told the FdC, be assured that as long as you practise meekness and mutual respect, your home will be a paradise, but it will cease to be so and will become a hell as soon as there is no longer harmony among you. Again according to SV, the virtue of meekness is a virtue that keeps us calm in an agitated and difficult situation because it controls our own emotionality and anger. Meekness ‘is a secret force in the innermost part of the heart that not only tempers the ardour of anger, but stifles its slightest feelings’.

And it is also the ability to keep the tongue in check because it is an organ capable of “setting the whole course of life on fire” (James 3:7). Moreover, for SV, meekness is affability, cordiality, hospitality, and benevolence towards the people with whom we live. SV said: we must be lovable, affable people, capable of cordially welcoming. When we receive a displeasure, a wrong, unpleasant and offensive words, the virtue of meekness helps us to be more tolerant, forgiving, and to move on.


“Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love in a spirit of gentleness?” (1 Cor 4:21), asked Paul. The virtue of meekness strengthens relationships and fraternal correction. Dialogue conducted with meekness and gentleness always prevails. “Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted” (Gal 6:1). In every humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another in love. Even in persecution or trial, the true Christian must strive to show everyone a serene meekness, according to St. Paul’s writing: “Let your gentleness be evident to all” (Phil 4:5). In this way, he testifies that “the yoke of the Lord is sweet and his burden light” because it is the yoke and the burden that come from love.

The Lord Jesus is the model to imitate for our meekness. But he is so different from the common thought of men that he shakes the human conscience. To become meek and humble like him, good will is not enough, but rather communion with Him in the Holy Spirit, like Mary. Mary sings in the Magnificat: God has looked upon the humility of his servant (Lk 1:48). And again: He has brought down the powerful from their thrones and lifted up the lowly (Lk 1:52). We are therefore asked for a continuous work on ourselves and the attitude of those who know that they are always on the way because the measure of our maturity is Christ and His Mother, Mary Most Holy, both “model and our GPS of meekness”. This meekness, modeled by Christ and Mary, does indeed overcome all human arrogance and oppression.

Fr. Zeracristos Yosief, C.M.