Our Lord said, “Learn of Me, for I am meek and humble of heart” (Mt 11:29). St. Francis de Sales pointed out that humility makes our lives acceptable to God, and meekness makes us acceptable to our neighbour. St. Bernard said, “As without faith it is impossible to please God, so without mildness it is impossible to please men and to govern them well.”
We should strive to be truly meek and humble, and do not content with the external signs of these virtues. St. Bernard said, “There are some characters which appear very gentle as long as everything goes well with them; but at the touch of any adversity or contradiction, they are immediately enkindled, and begin to throw forth smoke like a volcano.
“Such as these may be called burning coals hidden under ashes. This is not the meekness which Our Lord aimed to teach, that He might make us like Himself. We ought to be like lilies among thorns, which, though they come from amid such sharp points, do not cease to be smooth and pliable.”
Gentleness towards others
St. Francis de Sales said, “When you have to make arrangements, settle quarrels, or win others to your views, take care to be as mild as possible. You will accomplish more, and conquer more readily, by yielding and humbling yourself than by harshness and disputation. Who does not know that more flies are caught with an ounce of honey than with a hundred barrels of vinegar?”
The saint was fond of repeating: “Blessed are the hearts which can bend; they shall never be broken.”
St. Jane Frances de Chantal shared her experience: “I have turned forward and backward and on every side, and what conclusion have I reached? I have considered all methods of governing, and even tried them, and I have finally seen that the best is that which is amiable, sincere, humble, and patient.”
Meekness and gentleness help to soften hearts to receive the grace of conversion. St. Francis de Sales said, “If you wish to labour with fruit in the conversion of souls, you must pour the balsam of sweetness upon the wine of your zeal, that it may not be too fiery, but mild, soothing, patient, and full of compassion.
“For the human soul is so constituted that by rigour it becomes harder, but mildness completely softens it. Besides, we ought to remember that Jesus Christ came to bless good intentions, and if we leave them to His control, little by little He will make them fruitful.”
Gentleness towards ourselves
St. Francis de Sales pointed out that as the remonstrations of a father will have much greater effect upon his child if they are offered kindly and gently than if they are hot and angry, so when we have done wrong, we should reprove our heart gently and calmly.
The saint said, “You should never be displeased at the sight of your own imperfections, except with a displeasure humble, tranquil, and peaceful, not excited and angry; for this latter kind does more harm than good.”
The saint gives us the following remedies against anger:
— To forestall its movements, if possible, or at least to cast them aside quickly, by turning the thoughts to something else.
— In imitation of the apostles when they saw the sea raging, to have recourse to God, Whose office it is to give peace to the heart.
— In the heat of passion, not to speak, nor to take any action about the matter in question.
— To strive to perform acts of kindness and humility towards the person against whom one is incensed, especially in reparation for any of a contrary nature.