Mildness—Strength or Weakness?
WHICH is more pleasurable—a stormy, gusty, bitterly cold day or a balmy, mild spring one? Who is more pleasurable to be around—a person who is harsh, cutting with words, easily irritated, or one who keeps his balance under trying circumstances and deals reasonably with others? With which person can you work to the best advantage?
When we enjoy mild weather we do not think of it as being unstable, unsatisfactory and somehow inferior to stormy weather. Likewise, if a person is mild it does not mean that he is weak or less capable of getting things done than is a hot-headed person.
Mildness, therefore, does not mean weakness. Nor is it completely unruffled calmness or soft speech, ignoring the importance or urgency of a matter. For “mild,” often rendered “meek” in the Bible, translates the Greek word praus. William Barclay, a Greek scholar, says: “There is gentleness in praus but behind the gentleness there is the strength of steel.”a
Another dictionary remarks that the Bible word for “mildness” refers to “that temper of spirit in which we accept [God’s] dealings with us as good, and therefore without disputing or resisting.” This work also says: “[Mildness] consists not in a person’s outward behaviour only; nor yet in his relations to his fellow-men; as little in his mere natural disposition. Rather, it is an inwrought grace of the soul.” This agrees with the Bible, which points out that true mildness is not an inborn quality but is a fruit of the spirit of God. (Gal. 5:22, 23) It comes primarily from developing a relationship with God.
Therefore, mildness is not a mere outward display of calmness, a soft-spoken manner. It reflects God’s strong but mild personality. Some persons may speak softly and appear to be ever so kind. Such ones, though, may be like ‘an iron fist in a velvet glove,’ actually covering up a harsh nature with soft speech. Or they may be unbending and unreasonable. But one genuinely mild knows that reasonableness and balance should always be observed, but firmness and straightforwardness must not be lacking.—Eccl. 3:1, 2, 7.
Jesus said of himself: “I am mild-tempered and lowly in heart.” (Matt. 11:29) Yet he was firm when necessary. When an officer of the Jewish high priest slapped Jesus during his trial, Jesus said: “If I spoke wrongly, bear witness concerning the wrong; but if rightly, why do you hit me?” (John 18:22, 23) Jesus also corrected the apostle Peter very forcefully when Peter unwittingly tried to break Jesus’ integrity.—Matt. 16:21-23.
On the other hand, even though Jesus had great power at his command (he could summon twelve legions of angels at any time), he never became harsh or unreasonable. (Matt. 26:53) Though he did good and never exalted himself, he was treated far worse than a slave but, as the apostle Peter said: “When he was being reviled, he did not go reviling in return. When he was suffering, he did not go threatening, but kept on committing himself to the one who judges righteously.”—1 Pet. 2:23.
So the mild person will undergo much without resorting to harshness. But there are times when he may depart from soft speech with those who manifest a disobedient or rebellious spirit.—1 Cor. 4:21.
Mildness consists, not merely in the tone, but primarily in what is said. Therefore, true mildness requires the exercise of Scriptural wisdom. James spoke of a “mildness that belongs to wisdom.” (Jas. 3:13) The Proverbs say: “An answer, when mild, turns away rage,” and “a mild tongue itself can break a bone.” (Prov. 15:1; 25:15) The answer must contain wisdom in order to move others. Such an answer can break the hardest opposition.
When the woman Abigail appealed to David, it was not so much the softness of Abigail’s tone, but her strong, sensible argument, yet at the same time her being respectful and mild, that turned David back from the heat of anger when he was on his way to slaughter Nabal’s household. Abigail said to David:
“Please, do not let my lord set his heart upon this good-for-nothing man Nabal, for, as his name is, so is he. Nabal is his name, and senselessness is with him. . . . And now, my lord, as Jehovah is living and as your soul is living, Jehovah has held you back from entering into bloodguilt and having your own hand come to your salvation. . . . Because Jehovah will do to my lord the good toward you according to all that he has spoken.”—1 Sam. 25:23-35.
Likewise, Gideon gave a mild answer with wisdom to the tribe of Ephraim, which tried to pick a quarrel with him. Gideon was not commissioned by God to engage in intertribal warfare, and he did not want trouble with Ephraim. His mild reply disarmed them completely. He answered: “What now have I done in comparison with you? Are not the gleanings of Ephraim better than the grape gathering of Abiezer [or, the Abiezrites, Gideon’s fellow warriors]? It was into your hand that God gave Midian’s princes Oreb and Zeeb, and what have I been able to do in comparison with you?” As a result, “their spirit calmed down toward him.” True mildness brings forth mildness on the part of others.—Judg. 8:1-3.
If a person does not normally display mildness, it may point to haughtiness on his part. Humility accompanies true mildness, for the Scriptures admonish Christians to walk “with complete lowliness of mind and mildness.”—Eph. 4:2.
Mildness is a requisite for all in the congregation. Elders are to ‘instruct with mildness’ and to restore erring ones in mildness. (2 Tim. 2:25; Gal. 6:1) Newer and younger ones should “accept with mildness the implanting of the word,” not resisting it.—Jas. 1:21.
And while the men of the congregation lead in prayer, speak from the platform and teach, the women can accomplish their share for the congregation’s spirituality and well-being. How? The apostle Peter says that they can do it by letting their adornment be “the secret person of the heart in the incorruptible apparel of the quiet and mild spirit, which is of great value in the eyes of God.” (1 Pet. 3:4) Yes, material clothing may be beautiful when new. Nevertheless, it wears out, deteriorates and even goes out of style. But a mild spirit is “incorruptible,” and God will preserve the one who has such a spirit.
a A New Testament Word Book.