“Your adornment must not be merely external–braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God.” 1 Peter 3:3-4
I love the glimpse into God’s heart that we see in 1 Peter 3:4. We read that a gentle and quiet spirit is precious in his sight. I love being able to know how he feels about this. Knowing that he so highly values a gentle and quiet spirit has made me value it too. It also fosters a great desire in my heart to pursue it.
I have been considering this call to possess a gentle and quiet spirit for quite a while. When I first became convicted of pursuing it, I realized I had a lot of work to do. I believe I am doing better. Recently, I got some unsolicited feedback about this very thing from my husband. The other night he embraced me and said some sweet words about loving me. He then mentioned in an appreciative tone that I was gentle and quiet! I was stunned and happy that he used those exact words. I was not naturally given to a gentle and quite spirit, so I give God all the glory for this change in me.
While gentle and quiet are both important characteristics to possess, right now I would like to focus on gentle and its alternate translation meek. First, let’s look at the Greek.
The Greek word for gentle in this verse is praus. Strong’s Greek Dictionary offers this meaning: “Apparently a primary word; mild, that is, (by implication) humble: – meek.” Thayer’s Greek Definitions offers: “mildness of disposition, gentleness of spirit, meekness.” Though praus is translated as gentle in the NASB and ESV, the KJV translates praus as meek. From my basic investigation it appears that gentle or meek is a good translation.
I wonder which is preferable to the reader. Would you rather be told to have a gentle spirit or a meek spirit? I imagine most would be more comfortable with gentle. It is an admirable characteristic. When we think of a gentle person we can imagine someone who is soothing in tone, edifying, and a joy to be around. The word meek, however, has the misfortune of rhyming with weak and can stir up negative feelings and images. It can bring to mind a person who is easily walked over and who never stands up for themselves. I can understand why no one would want to emulate that behavior. Meek is a much harder sell.
Because of the negativity attached to it, meek sometimes needs special care when talking about Jesus. We’re familiar with the verse that says “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” (Matthew 11:29) To help counteract any misconceptions about Jesus, I have repeatedly seen meek explained as “strength under control.” This is a good explanation because no one who knows Jesus would say that he is easily walked over.
Since meek needs extra explaining and can stir up negative feelings and images, some might feel that it would be better to simply use gentle. Gentle is a good translation and is a beautiful characteristic to possess. I would like to suggest that instead of choosing between them, we retain both. I think the fact that meek is such a potent word is the exact reason we should embrace it. Strong words motivate and challenge us. I feel this way even though I found less than flattering definitions of meek in the dictionary. Here are a few entries that I came across.
1. humbly patient or docile, as under provocation from others.
2. overly submissive or compliant; spiritless; tame.
3. Obsolete . gentle; kind.
Quiet, gentle, and easily imposed on; submissive:
‘I used to call her Miss Mouse because she was so meek and mild’
‘the meek compliance of our politicians’
: having or showing a quiet and gentle nature : not wanting to fight or argue with other people
Full Definition of MEEK
1. enduring injury with patience and without resentment : MILD
2. deficient in spirit and courage : SUBMISSIVE
3. not violent or strong : MODERATE
While some positive meanings like quiet and gentle are offered, less positive ones are also given. Who would wish to be spiritless, deficient in spirit and courage, or a Miss Mouse? On a side note, I find it interesting that the second definition in Merriam Webster’s – deficient in spirit and courage – is followed by the word submissive as if they are the same! While it may have that meaning in some cases, being submissive, at least in a healthy Christian way, has nothing to do with being deficient in spirit and coverage. Notice too that submission comes up in each entry. Though it appears to be presented as something negative, I feel that gives the word meek more relevance for a Christian wife, not less.
Even with the negative aspects presented in these definitions, there is enough good in them to still embrace the word meek. If we take the word meek to include gentle and quiet and submissiveness then it encapsulates three of the five characteristics Christian wives are called to possess in 1 Peter 3:1-6. For these reasons, I am OK with the word meek. I am not inclined to worry about any negative meaning it might have or how others see it.
Meek in Marriage
I also can’t ignore that through the years I have seen meekness do wonders in our marriage. Meekness has created more unity between my husband and me. I’m sure it has prevented unnecessary arguments. I am more inclined to listen and be patient when I’m meek. Because of that we have more harmony. Having a meek spirit also helps maintain a peaceful atmosphere in the house. When I’m meek, he has no need to have his guard up. He can share freely knowing he will not be met with an abrasive attitude. Being meek also puts me in a frame of mind to be edifying and supportive. It strongly focuses my heart towards him and his happiness.
Recently, when I held the thought Meek in Marriage in the front of my mind, my countenance softened. I came up with that phrase while considering 1 Peter 3:1-6. I intentionally repeated it to myself when I was in my husband’s presence. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the scene I mentioned above, when my husband said those sweet things about me being gentle and quiet, happened during the very same days that I was first repeating this phrase. I love that he noticed, and I love the alliteration in the phrase Meek in Marriage. It makes it easier to remember how I should live. I am going to keep it in my thoughts to help me pursue this which is precious in God’s sight. I pray it might be a blessing for you too.