Examining the Beatitudes Part
The Most Misunderstood Beatitude
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit
--Matthew 5 : 5
In our testosterone poisoned culture, meek is
a four-letter word. Can you think of any ad campaign that uses the word
meek? Meek draws up images of weakness and cowed submissiveness. How would
such people ever inherit the whole earth? What the heck was Jesus talking
What Jesus was talking about got lost in translation, not only from
Greek to English, but also from Aramaic to Greek. Remember Jesus spoke
these words in Aramaic. They originally got written down in Greek.
The Greek word that as translated as meek, praus, can mean
restrained use of power. It also expresses the Greek ideal of find the
happy medium between emotional extremes. The general idea is having power
or great energy, but not letting run rampant.
The Aramaic word, l'makikhe, can be translated gentle or humble
and carries the connotation of softening that which is hard within. It
is the idea of finding the right balance of tension in the body. When
the body is very relaxed, it doesn't move. When the body is very tense,
it also doesn't move. Athletes know that they need to find the right level
of tension and relaxation to be able to move quickly or respond accurately
to their opponent's moves.
Tai chi practitioners also seek the right level of relaxation and centeredness
in order to open to flow of chi or life force in their bodies.
Spiritually this means softening within, opening to what is, not being
rigid, anal or oh so PC (politically correct) about, well, fill in the
Doing this though will not make you the landlord of the Earth! In our
American minds, inherit the earth brings up pictures of world domination.
That of course, does not flow from the Greek and Aramaic words translated
The Aramaic instead has the sense of receiving from the earth strength
and energy, receiving the life force of the earth. From my own experience,
when I relax, center down and connect to my breath, I can sense the energy
of the earth around and within me. Deeper still, I sense God presences,
in and as this energy.
For me, this experience is subtle, not overwhelming, and not easy to
stay with. My mind, my ego wants to get back to whatever was fascinating
it a moment before. The practice is to return to center, to return to
my intention to be open to God giving Herself to me; returning to this
sacred space of openness again and again and again and again... in compassion
and love, softening when I harden, opening when I close down.
There is a lesson here for the LBGT community. There is oh so much anger,
vilification, emotional, spiritual and physical violence coming at us
everyday. Of course we stiffen and harden ourselves to brace ourselves
against this onslaught of evil. This natural stiffening is only meant
to be a momentary, protective response to be followed with moving into
a more balanced state. From that place of balance we can respond with
wisdom, skill and compassion to what is coming at us.
When I first came out, I was shocked when I learned of the term, PC.
Like you have to be a certain way to be a lesbian. What is this, I thought
to myself. We have just thrown off the bondage the straight world put
on us about being gay, only to make another form of bondage for ourselves?
I'm not talking S & M folks. I'm talking PC is BS. It's a very human thing
to fall into, but its rigidity and narrowness does nothing for any community.
There is another lesson here. When you read the Bible, don't take it
at face value. All of Scripture has many, many layers of meaning. The
interpretation I have given for the third beatitude is only one possible
meaning. This doesn't mean anything goes in biblical interpretation. You
need to do your homework. Do not force the text to say something it doesn't.
That's what the fundamentalists do to us. It is not good form to do it
back to them.
The Bible is a treasure trove of deep wisdom. It takes work to get at
that wisdom. When wisdom is found it is energizing, even fun. Really.
The Bible is not our enemy. Ignorance is. Rigidity is. The antidote is
wisdom, openness, softening and ultimately, compassion.
Debbie Graham is a native Idahoan who lives with her beloved partner, Teresa, in Boise, Idaho. She writes a monthly spirituality column for Diversity, Idaho's Monthly LBGT news magazine. She is a Lay Eucharistic minister at St. Michael's Episcopal Cathedral in Boise, Idaho. She also leads a Centering Prayer Group and teaches classes on Centering Prayer and the Spiritual Journey.
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