Dietrich Von Hildebrand (DVH): Chapter 14
Mansuetude or Holy Meekness is carefully defined, expounded on, and repackaged into a spiritual bullet of wisdom in this writing by Dietrich. He then fires it into my soul and into my heart before letting it rebound on an outward trajectory into my aspirations for worldly and spiritual acquisitions. The grand journey of Transformation in Christ is shattered with a call for fierce self-appraisal and seated contemplation. How many of us have refined our attitudes and disposition to be able practice the following aesthetic daily:
“To disavow within ourselves any inchoate impulse of anger, to be intensely aware of its ugly disharmony, to have it shattered by the contact of Christ before the need could even arise to curb it – this is what constitutes true meekness.” DVH
This sentence needs deconstruction to unveil the expansive nature of its import on our daily attitudes and actions.
- To disavow I swear off and commit to allowing any remnant of anger to be present.
- I do this before anger even takes form, while it is just beginning (inchoate) to develop.
- I am so well-practiced in patience and inward peace that such disharmony is not provided entry into my heart.
- I do not have to even restrain anger as my conscious contact with Christ eviscerated my impulse to respond with anger (or hatred) to things not of my liking.
Is the latter not the cause of most of our anger – simply stated? Rational anger for misfortune of being a victim of gossip, slander, robbery, or other insults to one’s personage does not stir your fury? How about irrational anger like experiencing unrequited love, job loss, or promotion denied? Do these not stir an anger cord or a taste for revenge? Some of us may be able to clain our expressed anger is purely righteous anger, fueled soley by God’s intentions for us, devoid of any selfish motivation. Most of us are ill-advised to be that confident that we have mastered this virtue.
Who among us has achieved this near state of perfection with this singular aesthetic of Holy Meekness? And yet the most infamous preaching of Christ comes from the Sermon on the Mount call us to Holy Meekness: BLESSED are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Matthew 5:5[i]
Any serious Christian must examine this virtue in its depth. There are countless interpretations and teachings on living meekly![ii] Dietrich’s work places this pursuit well towards the end of his book cited above and rightly so.
I mentioned to a colleague, sort of under my breath, okay let’s practice holy meekness. He burst out laughing at the idea of me living meekly. I can be rather assertive (some may say overly demanding or aggressive) when it comes to work demands and expectations of project outcomes – often with unrealistic timelines. My intentions are generally very noble and aimed at the greater good. However, when they are demonized, sabotaged, overruled, corrected, or otherwise sent into a tailspin I can become mildly disenchanted and dam it, angry.
Where is the line between appropriate disappointment and anger? Is it not human to experience anger, to harness its primal call to action as the neural architecture of our frontal cortex recognizes the dismal failure of our desired ends being propelled by incompetency or worse yet just outright indifference? The Hulk personafied righteous anger for a generation. Some of us, just like the Hulk, cannot afford the luxury of being angry – even our percieved justified anger at a situation or a person. Anger and resentment are toxins for the soul.
It is human, all too human. Sadly our society continues to promote anger and aggression even in the absence of direct physiological danger. There is no place for it in my heart if I am to aim for perfecting our living meekly. If Dietrich was here I might challenge him with how can we portray Jesus Christ as living meekly?
The cleansing of the temple and its apparent contradiction with humility and non-violence[iii] is an example of a culminating breaking point where Jesus’s anger is seen in striking disharmony to many of his teachings. This scene however is a striking forshadowing of things to come. Some might relate the above to an example of righteous anger (See The Deeper Meaning of Jesus and the Money Changers[iv]).
You can see by his actions to be meek is not to be without action. However, ultimately Jesus chose to lead a meek life and accept his place at Golgotha and painful crucifixion for our redemption. Yet his life was a life of action (teaching, healing, and dying on the Cross). Even as he was being tortured and preparing for death he said “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
“In him who has attained to true meekness, there no longer remains any field of sensitivity to his treatment or appraisal by others except one: a heart warmed and made happy by the enlivening ray of pure love.” DVH
Achieving living a meek life requires nothing short of self-abandonment, shedding our sense of self-importance and pride, a total surrender to God’s will. The latter will provide us with the wisdom to act when facing adversity, transform suffering into mystery of experiencing human tragedies and carrying our crosses without complaint, and to embrace the beauty and majesty of life’s every treasure (human, animal, and even inanimate objects). Everything in our domain is deserving of our utmost respect and care.
Living this way presents a contradiction of ideas. We are acknowledging a certain disillusionment of our personal sovereignty while simultaneously becoming infinitely free to live a truly holy and harmonious life – without retreating from life and all its grandeur.
Today our expressions of human arrogance are exercised in social media, snapchats, and lunch and dinner gatherings of like-minded groups of people sustaining a narrative that promotes their own perceived identity at the expense of vilified others. Many of these gatherings are like-minded Christians co-opted away from the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount and subsumed by artificial Christianity.
Where is my Christian attitude today?