Harnessing Meekness

These horses could decide to run back down the hill or stop because of the overwhelm of the steepness of the climb. They could also fight with one another because of irritability, or continue the climb knowing they are equipped to endure. They have been trained under authority to use their power with self-control. When we are phased by the strains of life, meekness may be one of the human virtues that enables us to manage our emotions. Meekness is often confused with weakness whereas the word “praus” where the word was derived from, was related to horse training. A war horse had exceptional power, yet rather than being raging and reckless or completely cowardly, the war horse learned courage through realising their potential and strength learned from meekness under authority. So how might meekness relate to our health?

The definition of health by the World Health Organization (WHO) has not been changed since 1948. It is defined as “a complete state of physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”. In psychology there has been a shift from just studying the causes and treatments of psychopathologies to the inclusion of positive psychology, which furthers our understanding of how we build our strengths and virtues. Seligman and Csikszentmihalyi (2000) defined positive psychology as being ‘valued subjective experiences: well-being, contentment, and satisfaction (in the past); hope and optimism (for the future); and… happiness (in the present). Addressing both our weakness and strengths are important to develop our health and well-being.

Life’s weights can be our training ground. Difficult times may stretch you, and feel like they are breaking you, yet like a palm tree who bounces back after a storm, with its roots strengthened may hold some life lessons for us to apply. You may currently be feeling weighed down and stretched to the limits in your life, but if we can trust ourselves to bend through the storms by authentically and vulnerably talking about our difficulties, facing our fears, harnessing meekness rather than pride, we might find that it is in surrender that we find new strength, wisdom, and courage that causes us to reign over our emotions.

Mr Rogers life mission was to teach children that any emotion that is mentionable is manageable. We need to therefore talk to others about our challenges, seek support, or as Dr Daniel Siegel phrased “Name it to tame it”. Our emotions are guides and propellers of strength. Positive emotions tell us what we care about and fuel a desire to create a life we enjoy. Negative emotions can keep us safe when our limbic brain senses the fight or flight mechanism needs to warn you to protect you from imminent danger. However, if you are living in fear of not being enough, or fear of being embarrassed, or fear of not being able to cope, your body will always be on the lookout for danger and feelings can overwhelm you causing you to lash out, shut down, or just keep doing the right thing yet holding resentment inside. These survival responses are helpful in life or death situations, yet dangerous when not under control can bring about damaging results for our relationships with others and our ourselves.

Aristotle defined a meek person in relation to someone who is angry at the right person, at the right time, in the right manner, for the right amount of time. It is about having the power at our disposal but choosing to be merciful, using restraint combines both strength with wisdom. Pride is the opposite of humility and meekness and can maintain fear. Perhaps, if we could learn to harness more meekness when storms arise, this will enable us to endure the weights of life like the resilient palm tree and then use them to propel us with boldness and courage rather than fear or feebleness.

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