Meekness

Few names leave out more and are less satisfying than names for virtues, and this is particularly true of the biblical virtue of meekness. The English suggests being mousy, cowering, and timidly being dominated by exterior aggression, but this can’t be what Scripture holds out as the virtue for which Moses was the paradigm case (Numbers 12:3). No one ever called Moses timid and mousy, and even if they had it wouldn’t be a virtue.

Meekness is equanimity and control in the face of vexation. The most conspicuous opposite of meekness is what English calls “losing it”, i.e. yelling at, berating and/or becoming violent with persons or events that annoy and vex us. Lesser responses than losing it are still of the same kind: eyerolling, mockery, defiant cockiness and stinkfacing, etc. Meekness is therefore a crucial virtue of the irascible appetite that often intersects crucially with justice in governing how we will express our anger to others.

Virtues also have opposites that are closer to the virtue, and for meekness these opposites are depression and timidity. Both meekness and depression are in the irascible appetite and often involve an absence of response to things that vex us. Timidity also has an absence of response, though its flaccidity of will can be distinguished from the way this occurs in depression. Like many other virtues meekness is often confused with the corruption with the most superficial likenesses to it.

 

 

 

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