Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Will Caspar Milquetoast inherit the earth?

In the Bible Jesus is quoted as saying, "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth." (Matt. 5:5) Some people think he was putting a halo on Caspar Milquetoast, a cartoon character from 1931 until 1953 in the comic section of the New York Herald Tribune. The name was a deliberate misspelling of a bland food called milk toast, used to settle nervous stomachs. Caspar was extremely shy and timid, and thanks to him, the word "milquetoast" is still defined in many dictionaries as someone who is unusually submissive or meek. But rest assured, Jesus never meant to imply that Caspar would inherit the earth.

Caspar Milquetoast

At a basic level, meekness is open-mindedness, gentleness and self-control. At a higher level, it means emptying oneself of personal will, and overcoming many fears, including fear of criticism. It means surrendering an over-inflated confidence in our own judgement. Meek people have none of these embarrassments. 

They know meekness is strength, restrained by love. Only strong people (not in muscle, but in mind) can be meek. The meek don't think less of themselves, but they think of themselves less. They exhibit strength without compromise, shown by putting others' needs before their own. 

And what is the earth they are to inherit? It's not acreage. "Inheriting the earth" means having a power over human hearts that others do not possess.

Helen Keller had this power. She defined meekness this way. "I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but my chief duty is to accomplish small tasks as if they were great and noble."

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