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Tom Scotus

Meekness is not Weakness

Madonna of Humility

Jesus calls us to "turn the other cheek" and "not return evil for evil." This is what it means to be "meek" in the Christian sense. Ironically, it takes a lot of strength to do so because of our pride and our sinful inclination to seek revenge. So being "meek," in the Christian sense, is not being "weak," although others will often perceive it to be so. This presents a problem because people are, in some ways, like animals. They usually only attack or disrespect those who seem like "easy marks."

God is not asking us to be weak. He wants us to be strong and He is able to make us strong. At the same time, He calls on us to be peacemakers and to love others as we love ourselves. So how do we get people to respect us without compromising our Christian principles?

Act strong and confident. People do judge a book by its cover. Projecting confidence and strength lessens the likelihood that people will mistreat you.

Maintain a polite distance. Many people only disrespect their friends or acquaintances who appear weak and needy. You’ll find that as you "cool off" your relationships with people like these they will treat you better. Only get close to people who respect you and treat you well.

Nip it in the bud. As soon as you are disrespected, either cool off the relationship or put the person in their place, without being really nasty about it. Before they become very disrespectful, abusers will test your strength. Bullies usually aren’t looking for fights. They are looking for easy marks. Let me give you a real-life example. Charlie had just arrived at a meeting. "Look what the cat dragged in!" Jack said with a smile. He was probably just kidding; nevertheless, Charlie was offended. "Jack, I consider you a friend. So don’t talk to me like that," he replied. That was a perfect way for Charlie to set boundaries with Jack without becoming nasty.

Fight. "Turning the other cheek" doesn’t mean that you must avoid all conflict. Sometimes to do what is right, you must fight. However, how do you fight but not sin? It isn’t easy! I remember seeing a woman, who was completely in the wrong, rudely tell off a group of people in a restaurant. One of the gentlemen at the table said with a firm voice, "God bless you, lady. God bless you!" What could she say to that? She just walked away.

"Turning the other cheek" is part of the process of dying to ourselves in order that we might attain heaven. We find it so difficult because of our prideful self-love, the very thing that we, as Christians, must overcome. We also "turn the other cheek" out of love for the other person. I heard a great homily once in which the priest spoke on this very subject. "When we turn the other cheek, the offending person often becomes better," he said.

Sister Lucy of Fatima said that we should generally allow others to seem to prevail over us in everyday "unimportant" conflicts because the person who really prevails is the person who knows how to keep silent out of love for God.

If someone has gravely wronged you, resist the desire to get revenge. "It is mine to avenge; I will repay" (Deuteronomy 32:35), says the Lord. We have all sinned many times against others and against God. "Turning the other cheek" is a form of penance that helps pay our debt to God.