Meekness can help foster more harmonious dialogue

Catholic Courier    |    04.30.2018
Category: Columns

Would we sleep better and be more convivial if more meekness existed in society? I believe the answer is yes! To see how true this is let’s examine its essence.

Meekness is usually seeh as timidity, mildness and humbleness — the direct opposite of being forceful and dynamic. But it is anything but acquiescent.

In describing meekness as one of the essential qualities of dialogue, Pope Paul VI recalls Christ’s command: “Learn of me, for I am meek and humble of heart.”

He then points out that meekness in dialogue “is not proud, not bitter, it is not offensive. Its authority is intrinsic to the truth it explains, to the charity it communicates, to the example it proposes; it is not a command, it is not an imposition. It is peaceful; it avoids violent methods; it is patient; it is generous.”

The common denominator in these qualities is a loving heart — the antithesis of hardness of heart. Meekness has a distinctive authority based on inner truth we hold and allow to speak for itself quietly.

To speak quietly is one of meekness’ synonyms that Father Romano Guardini reminds us, “Only he who is able to be silent can speak meaningfully; otherwise, he talks nonsense. Only he who can also speak can properly keep silence; otherwise, he is dumb.”

Once when talking to my mother about a religious brother with whom I lived, I remarked, “He doesn’t talk much.” She replied, “Deep streams run silently.”

She was Italian and the first Italian words I learned from her were, Sta zitt, meaning be quiet. She would then add, “You are to be seen not heard; stop being a showoff!”

Creating inspiring music on the violin is the result of tonal quality achieved by placing varying amounts of pressure the bow and its fingering. When the right amount of pressure is properly applied, melodies sing out.

Yet most of what we hear in the media is anything but gentle, humble and meek. Would we be happier if elocution and the qualities of meekness were given more prominence in our society?

Would we sound more inviting if our words were intoned with the gentle pressure of meekness? My guess is we would enjoy dialogue at its best and work together more harmoniously.

Father Hemrick is a columnist for Catholic News Service.

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