Guiding the people from murder to meekness is the first in a series of examples exploring Jesus’ reframed spirituality. These everyday applications unpack how embodying the Beatitudes does two things. One, it serves as societal salt or light. Two, it creates blessed happiness for the disciple. Jesus does this by reframing the common teachings from the Law given by Moses.
Murder to Meekness
He begins, “You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder’; and ‘whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.’” This is pretty straight forward. One of the 10 Commandments is, “You shall not murder.” The rest of the Law expounds on various punishments for murder in varying circumstance. But rather than stopping there, Jesus puts a finger on murder fueling anger, and invites its opposite. Thus going from murder to meekness.
Do you recall the Blessed Are The Meek episode? In it I emphasized that meekness is different from humility. Meekness focuses on the treatment of others. A truly meek person remains calm and responds from that state, even when agitated.
This is strikingly different from what I experience with most people. More and more, I encounter people agitated not just by correction, but simple disagreement. Holding a different opinion comes as a personal attack. This is especially true when discussing religion and politics. For the less aggressive among us, the defending, excusing, explaining, and rationalizing kick into gear. Others respond with personal attacks or broad dismissal. Still more will just shut down.
I know all of these responses well. Not only do I experience them from others, but I spent decades living them. Those were years filled with fractured relationships and insecurity. In other words, there was no salt and light, nor the blessed happiness Jesus promises.
While I am still far from perfect, my own shift from murder to meekness began two years ago. A dear friend introduced me to, The Four Agreements. This book of Toltec wisdom invites us all to embrace four basic truths. Doing so, changes the way we see the world. Much like the Beatitudes, these wisdom statements are truths for us to embrace rather than traits to develop. The two that most impacted my journey towards meekness are, “Don’t take anything personally.” and, “Don’t make assumptions.”
Not taking things personally starts with a basic truth. What others say and do, reveals more about them than it does about you. The same is true about what I say and do. And exploring the truth behind our behavior is something worth doing.
When I examined myself, I found two interrelated forces driving my life: shame and the longing for significance. So when someone would challenge or question me, I became defensive, not because of what they said, but because the statement reinforced my self-loathing and sense of insignificance. My response had nothing to do with them or with the content of their statement, and everything to do with me. Of course, me receiving what they said that way required me to make an assumption about their intent. I assumed they were as absorbed with my inner world, as I was.
Therefore, to move from murder to meekness, I needed to do three things:
- Step into a faith that disempowers shame.
- Recognize my innate significance as a child of the divine.
- Learn to ask clarifying and assumption busting questions.
Any sense of blessed happiness in my life flows from the first two. The third however, opens the door for me to be salt and light.
Having Better Arguments
In an article titled, How to Have Better Arguments Online, Guardian writer Ian Leslie offers a number of suggestions for better online conversations. These include:
- Do not dominate the other person. Dominated people are more likely to get defensive and reactive.
- Create a space where disagreement is encouraged, mistakes expected, and trust is nurtured.
- Affirm the other person’s ideal understanding of themselves. This allows them to reflect on how they might not live according to that ideal.
Asking questions disempowers my assumptions. Then it gives me reason to not take things personally. Finally, it does everything Leslie invites. A similar connection exists with the wisdom of this Harvard Business Review article on Persuading the Unpersuadable.
When we have conversations that invite others to move from murder to meekness, we are the salt of the earth. When our conversations prompt others to seeing the ramifications of their beliefs and behavior, we are the light of the world.
Now, I am not going to suggest I have murder to meekness fully figured out. This is especially true when it comes to resolving conflicts, be they with friends, family, or strangers on the Internet. But the more I choose not to take things personally and the fewer assumptions I make, the less reactive I become. This is true both when others approach me and in how I approach them. Who knows, someday, I might even become an effective peacemaker.
This post is part of an ongoing series. Link here for a list of every episode in this series.
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