Why Meekness Does Not Mean Weakness
I recently visited with Tony Olson at his office in North Sioux City, SD. Tony and his colleagues at Documents & Design, LLC (a.k.a D2), comprise an talented and eclectic team of “product designers, coders, program managers, technical writers, graphic designers, editors, behavioral scientists, technicians, testers, patent agents, and business people” who “strive to make…products and services better.”
At one point in the conversation, Tony pointed out the phrase, “Meekness does not mean weakness,” which was drawn on the glass wall of his office with a dry-erase marker so that anyone who walked by would see it. He said he’d written the statement a few days earlier as a way to generate thoughtful discussion amongst the team and to reinforce the culture they want to create and sustatain at D2.
Tony asked me what I thought the statement meant.
I believe the meanings of the words we use are so important. The words we choose can have a significant effect on how others perceive what we communicate. So, I told Tony I didn't want to answer his question until I’d had a chance to look meekness and weakness up in the dictionary. Before I compared and contrasted them, I wanted to understand what they really mean.
When I referred to Merriam-Webster.com for the meaning of the word, I observed three different definitions which can be applied to meek people and summarized as: mild, submissive and moderate. These three words appeared to represent a weak-nature at the surface but I knew a deeper analysis was needed.
When I apply the three definitions of meek to the context of Tony’s message, I can see it is most accurately reflected by the first definition, “enduring injury with patience and without resentment: MILD.” I also believe the third definition provides insight into Tony’s point, in that it tells us that meek people do not want violent conflict or negative debate simply for the sake of argument.
The dictionary showed me that weakness is “the quality or state of being weak.” So, logically, I was led to find the meaning of the word weak where I learned there are a number definitions which help illustrate the contrast between weakness and meekness.
Five Definitions of the Word Weak Which Prove Weakness Does Not Equal Meekness
1. The first definition indicates that a weak person lacks strength and the ability to withstand pressure.
- If meek people are also weak, then they would not be capable of “enduring...with patience,” a characteristic which I believe represents significant fortitude. Meek people must be resistant to the burden of stress created when opposed and especially when attacked physically or with verbal disrespect.
- Just because a person is meek, it does not necessarily mean they cannot use reason and logic to determine what they believe in. If meek people were also weak, they would not be able to resist the temptation to give in to contrary opinions or opposing arguments just to avoid conflict. Meek people are not against conflict, they are against losing their calm in situations where their points of view differ from those of others. Taking a stance is a decisive action.
- This definition can apply to anyone who does not put forth the necessary effort required to gather facts and understand the situation as clearly as possible before entering into a debate. So, logically, this definition applies to any type of person. What we must remember about the meek is that they stand resistant to opposing arguments because the reasoning they've invested in determining what they believe in creates the conviction to do so.
- This definition applies to the laws of physics and to systems. Meek and weak people are certainly susceptible to faulty design and logic, as are the strong. So, there is a correlation. Just remember, that which correlates does not necessarily translate to cause and effect. Displaying the characteristics of the meek does not preclude anyone from “developing vigor of expression or effect”. So, we cannot necessarily exclude the meek from the strong.
- If we believe that meek people are capable of forming logical arguments to discern their position and are willing to patiently present their case without resentment, then the only thing they give up under those conditions is the influence that is gained through political alliances made with others or the power bestowed through the authority of position. Meek people stand on the merit of their argument. If that means they stand alone and must resist the current of unified but irrational influence from others then they must be steadfast.
Meekness + Conviction = Significant Enduring Strength.
- They seek the truth through reason and logic.
- They are thoughtful, and in their thoughtfulness they find grace.
- Their steadfastness comes from conviction- The belief in what they are doing.
- They influence because they endure.
How Can You Be Both Meek and Strong?
- When you find yourself in a situation where your point of view differs from others, be patient, listen, so you can understand the real root cause of the conflict.
- Don’t let the stress caused by the conflicting position you take against the argument of another cause you to try to force the other person to agree with you. Recognize it’s possible that neither of you are entirely right. The key thing to remember is that both of you want the same thing: to be entirely right. The only way for that to happen is for both of you to understand the situation accurately, put your pride aside and accept the logical truth.
- Be resistant to showing your natural initial reaction to the things the other person says even if they are being disrespectful and insulting. Use your strength and energy to lift their thoughts and behaviors up to a level of reason through your own deliberate and logical approach.
- When you believe you disagree with what is being said and at the same time not sure how to respond, acknowledge the situation and let the other person know you want to think about what you want them to hear. A rational person will respect that.
- Don’t rely on your allies to strengthen your argument, depend on the reason and logic behind it. It doesn't matter how many people are on your side if you are not entirely right. All that does is multiply the weaknesses in your reasoning and creates an opportunity to use force to inappropriately coerce someone else.
- Focus on the logic and reasoning behind your argument, not on how many people stand on the other side of the debate. Being outnumbered is not a reason to change your mind. The only reason to change your mind is if you’ve been presented with an argument that is more logically truthful than your own.
Wow! I couldn't have said it better myself!
Success Engineer, BoomLife
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Tom Eakin's presentation of "What Do You Want?" is designed to challenge the way you define success and inspire you to engineer your own personal, professional or organizational path to success.
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