Is there a relationship between meekness and fear of punishment? Meekness means to channel energy and passion towards the right end with the right means. Fear of punishment is the first mode of love because out of a self love the person does not act towards a goal or the person acts towards a goal for the sake of a conditional good. Meekness and fear of punishment seem unrelated, but when considered closely, a clear relationship exists.
The word “meekness” often brings to mind a passage from Scripture where Jesus says that he is “meek and humble of heart,” as well as the passage about the beatitude (“blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth”). In the first passage, Jesus tells us about his heart as being meek and humble, yet readers of this passage might wonder, is one prior to the other?
A person cannot have meekness without having humility since humility overcomes the obstacle of pride. When our pride is wounded, we are unable to fully master our passions but instead respond to the wounded pride. When we have humility, we are able to have more self-control and master our passions.
Without meekness, a person will out of self-love continue to pursue semi-disordered or fully disordered ends. The first remedy to disordered passions is fear of punishment. A person who fears punishment may find that as time passes, his or her passions become bridled, developing meekness of their own volition, channeling their passions and energy (acts) pursuing the right means towards the right ends.
A person who fears God’s punishment and turns to being meek and humble can then love God more and with a higher quality love. We see this in the act of contrition prayed at the end of each confession. May we all seek meekness through fear of punishment and, through channeling ourselves towards God, move beyond fear of punishment to true love of God who is all good and deserving of all our love.