Meekness – What It Is and Isn’t

Before we begin digging deeper into what it looks like to cultivate this fruit in our lives, we must be clear on what it is and isn’t. Nancy Leigh DeMoss is using a book by Matthew Henry to dissect this fruit.  It is titled, The Quest for Meekness and Quietness of Spirit.  Since it was written in the 1600’s, it can be quite difficult to read.  What a blessing that Nancy has done this for us through this series.  We pray it will benefit not only us in our marriage, but yours as well.

First, let’s talk about what meekness ISN’T:

Here’s some of the phrases that show up in Matthew Henry’s book, descriptive of the lack of meekness:

Exorbitant passion: A person who is (now keep in mind, this is 300 years ago this was written) “unhinged by provocation”—someone who comes apart when they’re provoked.

Ungoverned anger: Someone who is enflamed; someone who takes offense; someone whose heart is hot within—he gets heated; the heat of passion.

He talked about people who are ruffled.

He talks about hurry and haste as the opposite of meekness.

Of course, anger, a tempestuous spirit, someone who is easily provoked.

The word contention or contentious comes up a lot when you think of the absence of meekness.

Someone who is restless, peevish, impetuous, violent, passionate, litigious—that’s a word we don’t use a lot, but it means prone to lawsuits, and isn’t that true in our culture? People throwing lawsuits on each other; it’s a litigious culture. Someone who is quick to sue others is not a meek person.

He talks about:

  • rash anger
  • fretting
  • revenge
  • finding fault
  • mean spirited
  • murmuring
  • disputing
  • quarrelsome
  • striving
  • vexatious—easily vexed
  • tumultuous
  • resentment
  • strife
  • bitterness
  • brawling
  • impulsive
  • clamor

He says, “The person who is lacking meekness passes judgment quickly on others”—quick to jump to conclusions, quick to write others off.

Being easily disturbed, being turbulent like the troubled sea—this is a person who is not meek.

Photo: Compassionate Solutions blog

Now let me give you the list that I wrote down as I read through his book of words that relate to meekness, words that describe a person who is meek:

  • holds their peace
  • obliging
  • a cool spirit
  • calm
  • unperturbed (I need a big dose of that. I am easily perturbed—that is not meek. To be unperturbed is to be meek.)
  • to pacify
  • yielding
  • soft answer
  • sweet
  • peaceable
  • rest
  • forgiving
  • gentle
  • evenness
  • peaceful
  • composed
  • rest of soul
  • serene
  • tolerable
  • amiable
  • quiet
  • undisturbed
  • restrained
  • easiness of spirit
  • patient
  • gracious easiness
  • unruffled (A person who is meek has a spirit that’s been tamed. He’s able to rule over his own spirit.)
  • accommodating
  • passions are subdued
  • tractable—Now, that’s not a word we use in modern-day English, but I think that means he is easy to be approached. He can hear reason; he can respond to reason. He doesn’t dig his heels in and say, “That’s the way I’ve always been; that’s the way I think, and I’m not going to change my mind.” He’s willing to change when needed.
  • submissive
  • soft or receptive
  • self-governing
  • bridled
  • swift to hear, slow to speak

A person who curbs the tongue is a meek person. A person who considers before passing judgment and before speaking. He thinks before speaking. He doesn’t just blurt out the negative or critical things that come to his mind. He considers first and lets God curb and bridle his tongue.

We love how Nancy takes these Truths about meekness and purposes to apply it to our lives – here and now.  We want to become more and more aware of the times when this fruit is lacking in our lives and when it is evident.  Especially evident in our spouse.  Let’s be encouraging to each other, and magnify the times we’re doing it right!

At the outset may we continually ask God to help us grow in meekness, for it is only by His power at work in us that this will happen.

Nancy offers this challenge:

Would you give God freedom to show you where you’re not meek? Now God has that freedom anyway, but would you say, “Lord, I want You to show me. I want You to convict me by Your Spirit of areas where I maybe didn’t even realize that I am not meek. Please show me that, and, Lord, grant me the gift of repentance. Change my heart. Change me. Help me to turn from the pride that would cause me to fail to be meek.”

Then ask the Holy Spirit, “Would You produce this fruit in my life?”

Finally, meekness is difficult to see because it is so closely related to two other fruits: Humility and Gentleness.  Nancy does an excellent job separating how these fruits function practically in our lives:

The three qualities are: humility, meekness, and gentleness.

Humility has to do with our view of ourselves. We esteem ourselves small because we are small. That’s what it means to be lowly minded, to have an accurate assessment of ourselves, not to think of ourselves more highly than we ought to think. Humility—you can’t have meekness without humility, and if you’re humble, you will be meek. They’re not identical, but they’re certainly related.

So humility is our view of ourselves.

Meekness, which is sometimes translated gentleness in some of our modern translations, meekness is an attitude toward the dealings of God and others as they affect us. It’s our attitude toward God in His dealings with us and our attitude of others in their dealings with us. It’s an inward heart attitude. Meekness.

So humility is how we view ourselves; meekness is how we view God and others in their dealings with us—it’s an inward heart attitude—and then the third quality is gentleness.

Gentleness has to do with our treatment of others. Meekness is our attitude about others. Gentleness is the outward action, how we treat those people. So, if you have a meek spirit toward people, you will treat them with gentleness. Our treatment of others is rooted in how we view them.

So humility is how we view ourselves; meekness is our attitude about God’s dealings with us and others’ dealings with us; and gentleness is the expression in outward action of that attitude of meekness.

So, looking at your own marriage – Do you see meekness or a lack of it?  May God help us to be honest and willing to respond to the fresh conviction of The Holy Spirit.  After all, it is only by His work in our lives and marriage that we’ll cultivate this Fruit of the Spirit.



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