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My grandmother was great, but she had that special mother-in-law gift of raising my mother's blood pressure. A well-timed comment about cooking or child-rearing would leave my mom stammering and defensive.

As a teenager, I would walk by and whisper, "Water off a duck's back, Mom." She came to understand my code—Let it go; Nana doesn't mean anything by it, and we know you're a good wife and mother—and my whispers usually helped. But now I wish I had known to say, "Roll it onto God, Mom."

Psalm 37:5 tells us to "commit your way to the Lord." Translated, this verse says something like, "roll onto Jehovah thy way." At certain family dinners, that means passing the gravy and "rolling" the need to defend ourselves—as well as our more serious needs and concerns—onto God.

Jesus was quoting from Psalm 37 when he said the meek will inherit the earth, and it turns out that the whole psalm is a primer on meekness. I have always been a little over-meek (reticent, shy, too deferential). So when I read the Bible and find the meek congratulated, I'm delighted.

But there's a catch. It turns out that only two people in Scripture are described as "meek": Moses and Jesus. So meekness likely has little to do with timidity.

If meekness isn't weakness, what is it? The word has an association with domesticated animals, specifically beasts of burden. At first blush, this etymology doesn't thrill me; I don't particularly aspire to be ox-like. But when I think about it, an ox at the plow is not weak but extraordinarily strong. The key, though, is that his power is harnessed and directed. Perhaps meekness is strength that is submitted to an appropriate authority.

Shortly after I began writing this column, I found myself in rare conflict ...

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Strength in Meekness
hide thisFebruary February

In the Magazine

February 2010

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