There’s nothing like a good cry to calm one down. Mourning brings about a clam peace. Mourning over our sin and the lack of God’s Grace in our lives leads us to the third step on the ladder of the Beatitudes. Meekness is the quiet calmness of accepting myself as I am and where I am. Inwardly, a meek person can let go of pretending, can let go of the fear of being found out, for a meek person sees his poverty and is no longer afraid that others will see it. Outwardly, meekness manifests itself in gentleness and consideration of others. Having looked my own shortcomings in the face and mourned over them, it is pretty difficult to get angry over the shortcomings of others. In fact, suffering over my own sins helps me to realize that others may also struggle over their shortcomings.
Humility is often used as a synonym for meekness. A meek person is certainly humble, or learning to be humble—learning not to hold on to things or rank or position, for such things do not define a humble person. A meek person knows who she is, so she doesn’t rely as much on the affirmation and praise of others. After all, having been comforted by the Holy Spirit, the calumnies or adulations or indifference of our friends, coworkers or family just don’t carry as much weight as they used to. Knowing my poverty and having experienced the comfort of the Comforter, I am secure in who I am. If God accepts me in spite of my poverty, then my need for the acceptance of my peers—and the accompanying need to posture myself for the sake of appearance—starts to melt away.
This is the third rung on the ladder. The meek person begins to understand from within himself, from his own inner struggle, that (for example) the person who has struck him on the cheek may be struggling too. Moreover, someone who has just finished or is still in the process of mourning is very unlikely to explode in anger at an affront. Poverty and mourning, by the Grace of the Holy Spirit, have led us to the place of humility. The passions of anger and lust, while still at work in us, don’t seem to have the pull they used to have. The same person who a short while ago I might have looked upon as an object to satisfy my lust is now becoming a person to me, a person who suffers too.
Another aspect of meekness is what I like to call “teachability.” The meek person is willing to listen to others, to be instructed and to learn. The proud think they already know, but the meek know that they do not know, or at least do not know as well as they should or could know, to paraphrase St. Paul (1 Cor. 8:2). A meek person begins to seek wise counsel. More precisely, the meek begin to see the wise counsel that God has already placed in their lives: the wise people who, because they were not perfect, were in the past ridiculed and rejected. Humble and teachable people begin to have eyes to see and ears to hear; and consequently, they begin to succeed in various areas of life. This, I think, is why Jesus said that the meek would inherit the earth. The meek are willing to learn, to grow, to change—not just spiritually, but in all areas of their life.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Spiritual poverty and tears lead to humility, and the humble are able to change. Having reached the third rung of the ladder of the Beatitudes it is important to remember that meekness must be continually renewed in us. Having experienced some of the blessedness of meekness, it is easy to slide back into pride. Blessings, both material and spiritual, if we are not very careful, will set us off our guard, will make it a little more difficult to see our own spiritual poverty which is the foundation of the ladder ascending into the Kingdom of Heaven. Therefore, the meek person, to remain meek, must continue to push into righteousness to see ever more deeply and in new ways her poverty. But this is the next rung.